Schumer to Trump: Comey firing a 'big mistake'

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocrats' education agenda would jeopardize state-level success Overnight Health Care — Presented by the Association of American Medical Colleges — Trump officials move to expand non-ObamaCare health plans | 'Zero tolerance' policy stirs fears in health community | New ObamaCare repeal plan Selling government assets would be a responsible move in infrastructure deal MORE (D-N.Y.) says he told President Trump that his decision to fire FBI Director James Comey was a "big mistake."

"Earlier this afternoon President Trump called me and informed me he was firing Director Comey," Schumer told reporters on Tuesday. "I told the president, 'Mr. President, with all due respect, you are making a big mistake.’ ”

He added that Trump didn't "really respond" to his comment.

Trump fired Comey on Tuesday based on the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsDOJ requests military lawyers to help prosecute immigration crimes: report Trump backs down in rare reversal Senate moving ahead with border bill, despite Trump MORE and his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters.

Trump wrote in a letter to Comey that the FBI has to restore "public trust and confidence."

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Republican senators largely defended Comey's termination. Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynSenate moving ahead with border bill, despite Trump GOP senators introduce bill to prevent family separations at border Senate GOP tries to defuse Trump border crisis MORE (R-Texas) pointed out the FBI director "serves at the pleasure of the president."

Schumer said that the "first question" for the Trump administration is why the president decided to fire Comey now. The FBI is investigating Russia's meddling in the 2016 White House race, as well as any connections between Trump's campaign and Moscow.

"Were these investigations getting too close to home for the president?" Schumer asked during his quickly scheduled press conference.

Schumer also linked Comey's firing to the ouster of former acting Attorney General Sally Yates and reiterated his call for the Department of Justice to appoint a special prosecutor for the probe into the 2016 election.

"This is part of a deeply troubling pattern from the Trump administration," Schumer said. "This does not seem to be a coincidence."

Democrats have called for months for the Department of Justice to appoint a special counsel, arguing someone appointed by the president would face political pressure.

Schumer added that if Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, refuses to appoint a special prosecutor, "every American will rightly suspect that the decision to fire Director Comey was part of a coverup."

"This investigation must be run as far away as possible from this White House," he said.