GOP senators on Comey firing: Where they stand

President Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey is splitting Senate Republicans.

Several prominent GOP lawmakers have raised concerns about the timing of the decision, which comes as the FBI is investigating the 2016 election and any contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Others, however, have offered support for Trump, arguing the president was well within his authority.

ADVERTISEMENT
Trump scored his most prominent defender on Wednesday when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat McConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Brent Budowsky: A plea to Alabama voters MORE (R-Ky.) noted that Democrats had previously criticized Comey and supported Rod Rosenstein’s deputy attorney general nomination.

“Our Democratic colleagues [are] complaining about the removal of an FBI director whom they themselves repeatedly and sharply criticized,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “That removal being done by a man, Rod Rosenstein, who they repeatedly and effusively praised.”

But that hasn’t quelled concerns from the some the rest of his 52-member caucus.

 

GOP senators critical/concerned (13)

Sen. John BoozmanJohn Nichols BoozmanThe Hill's Whip List: Where Republicans stand on Senate tax bill Lobbying World The Hill's Whip List: Republicans try again on ObamaCare repeal MORE (Ark.): Boozman said in a statement that "Americans deserve a full explanation as to the circumstances of the decision to immediately remove Mr. Comey from his post. Our country has lost faith in many of our institutions and a better public accounting of this situation.... can help restore some of that broken trust."

Sen. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrSessions argued presidents can obstruct justice in Clinton impeachment trial Trump Jr. to meet with Senate panel amid Russia probe Trump’s Russian winter grows colder with Flynn plea deal MORE (N.C.): The Senate Intelligence Committee chairman said in a statement that he was “troubled by the timing and reasoning of Director Comey’s termination.”

Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoSenate women: Rules on harassment must change Congress, here's a CO2-smart tax fix to protect, create jobs Women, Dems leading sexual harassment discussion in Congress: analysis MORE (W.Va.): Capito told ABC News that "I think we need to find out what's happened and why."

Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerFormer Dem Tenn. gov to launch Senate bid: report McConnell 'almost certain' GOP will pass tax reform Former New Mexico gov: Trump's foreign policy is getting 'criticized by everybody' MORE (Tenn.): Corker said in a statement that “while the case for removal of Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey laid out by Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein was thorough, his removal at this particular time will raise questions.”

Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat Sasse: RNC help for Roy Moore 'doesn't make any sense' Sasse calls RNC decision to resume support for Moore 'bad' and 'sad' MORE (Ariz.): Flake said in a tweet that “I’ve spent the last several hours trying to find an acceptable rationale for the timing of Comey's firing. I just can't do it.”

Sen. John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenMcConnell works to salvage tax bill GOP to reduce tax relief by 0B to win over deficit hawks  The Hill's Whip List: Where Republicans stand on Senate tax bill MORE (N.D.): Hoeven told Bloomberg Trump was acting on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's recommendation but "the timing raises some questions because of the interference of the Russians in our election."
 
Sen. John Kennedy (La.): Kennedy told NBC News that "the White House timing on this was less than impeccable" and Comey's successor "might be one of the most important decisions of his presidency."
 
Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat Meghan McCain knocks Bannon: 'Who the hell are you' to criticize Romney? Dems demand Tillerson end State hiring freeze, consult with Congress MORE (Ariz.): McCain said in a statement that “while the President has the legal authority to remove the Director of the FBI, I am disappointed in the President's decision to remove James Comey from office.”

Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Week ahead: Trump expected to shrink two national monuments GOP on verge of opening Arctic refuge to drilling MORE (Alaska): Murkowski said in a statement that “whether or not you are a supporter of Mr. James Comey’s actions as FBI director, the timing of his firing — in the middle of an investigation into Russia’s interference in our election — is serious cause for concern.”

Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Overnight Finance: House approves motion to go to tax conference — with drama | GOP leaders to consider Dec. 30 spending bill | Justices skeptical of ban on sports betting | Mulvaney won't fire official who sued him How four GOP senators guided a tax-bill victory behind the scenes MORE (Ohio): Portman said in a statement that “given the timing and circumstances of the decision, I believe the White House should provide a fuller explanation regarding the president’s rationale.”

Sen. Ben Sasse (Neb.): Sasse said in a statement that “regardless of how you think Director Comey handled the unprecedented complexities of the 2016 election cycle, the timing of this firing is very troubling ... I have reached out to the Deputy Attorney General for clarity on his rationale for recommending this action.”

Sen. Dan Sullivan (Alaska): Sullivan said in a statement that “President Trump has the authority to choose the director of the FBI whom he believes will best lead the agency. The timing of the president’s firing of Director Comey raises questions that will need to be answered by the administration." 

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Overnight Health Care: 3.6M signed up for ObamaCare in first month | Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' next year | Dems push for more money to fight opioids Dems push for more money for opioid fight MORE (S.D.): Thune told a local TV station that "there are questions about timing that the administration and Justice Department are going to need to answer in the days ahead."

 

GOP senators supportive of Trump (23)

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntDems push for more money for opioid fight Trump asked Senate Republicans to end Russia election interference investigation: report An overlooked solution to the opioid epidemic MORE (Mo.): Blunt said in a statement that “many, including myself, have questioned [Comey’s] actions more than once over the past year. I believe new leadership at the FBI will restore confidence in the organization.”

Sen. Bill Cassidy (La.): Cassidy told Business Insider that "obviously the timing looks bad, but I'm not sure there ever is good timing. ...Mr. Comey had become an issue."

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Health Care: 3.6M signed up for ObamaCare in first month | Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' next year | Dems push for more money to fight opioids Study: ObamaCare bills backed by Collins would lower premiums Right scrambles GOP budget strategy MORE (Maine): Collins said in a statement that  “today’s announcement is likely the inevitable conclusion of Director Comey’s decision last July to bypass the longstanding protocols of the Justice Department and publicly announce the reasons he had decided not to recommend an indictment of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGrassley blasts Democrats over unwillingness to probe Clinton GOP lawmakers cite new allegations of political bias in FBI Top intel Dem: Trump Jr. refused to answer questions about Trump Tower discussions with father MORE and to offer his personal views of Mrs. Clinton’s actions.”

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Air Force makes criminal reporting changes after Texas massacre We need a better pathway for allowing civilians to move guns across state lines MORE (Texas): The Senate’s No. 2 Republican gave some of the earliest support for Trump’s decision, telling reporters that “obviously he's been the center of controversy both among Democrats and Republicans at different times.”

 

Sen. Tom CottonTom CottonGOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration Grassley offers DACA fix tied to tough enforcement measures Five things senators should ask Tom Cotton if he’s nominated to lead the CIA MORE (Ark.): Cotton said in a statement to an Arkansas TV station that "the FBI Director reports directly to the Deputy Attorney General and it’s clear from Rod Rosenstein’s letter that he had lost confidence in Director Comey." 

Sen. Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoOvernight Regulation: Feds push to clarify regs on bump stocks | Interior wants Trump to shrink two more monuments | Navajo Nation sues over monument rollback | FCC won't delay net neutrality vote | Senate panel approves bill easing Dodd-Frank rules Overnight Finance: GOP delays work on funding bill amid conservative demands | Senate panel approves Fed nominee Powell | Dodd-Frank rollback advances | WH disputes report Mueller subpoenaed Trump bank records Senate panel moves forward with bill to roll back Dodd-Frank MORE (Idaho): Crapo told an Idaho radio station that "Frankly, putting in someone who’s new and fresh, and doesn’t have the taint that Director Comey has, could, I think, very legitimately be explained as an improvement or an assurance to everyone that we’ve got someone independent."

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzDebbie Wasserman Schultz marks 10 years as breast cancer survivor Foreign agent registration is no magical shield against Russian propaganda Let Trump be Trump and he'll sail through 2020 MORE (Texas): Cruz said in a statement that “unfortunately, Mr. Comey had lost the confidence of both Republicans and Democrats, and, frankly, the American people.”

Sen. Steve Daines (Mont.): Daines said in a statement that "Director Comey has lost the confidence and respect of both sides of the aisle including the organization he was charged with leading."

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration We are running out of time to protect Dreamers US trade deficit rises on record imports from China MORE (S.C.): Graham, a frequent critic of Trump, said in a statement that “given the recent controversies surrounding the director, I believe a fresh start will serve the FBI and the nation well.”

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGrassley blasts Democrats over unwillingness to probe Clinton GOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration Thanks to the farm lobby, the US is stuck with a broken ethanol policy MORE (Iowa): Grassley said in a statement that, “over the course of the last several months, Director Comey's decisions on controversial matters have prompted concern from across the political spectrum and from career law enforcement experts.”

Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' in 2018 Utah governor calls Bannon a 'bigot' after attacks on Romney MORE (R-Utah): A spokesman for Hatch told the Salt Lake Tribune that Hatch respects Comey but "under the troubling circumstances of the last several months, the senator believes it is time for new leadership at the FBI."

 

Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeGOP senator on backing Moore: ‘It’s a numbers game’ Overnight Energy: Panel advances controversial Trump nominee | Ex-coal boss Blankenship to run for Senate | Dem commissioner joins energy regulator Senate panel advances controversial environmental nominee MORE (Okla.): Inhofe told a reporter that, "I think it was the right thing to do; he's changed his position so many times."

Sen. Johnny IsaksonJohn (Johnny) Hardy IsaksonSenate ethics panel wants details on sexual harassment allegations Senate leaders push tax debate into Friday Senate Ethics Committee opens 'preliminary inquiry' into Franken allegations MORE (Ga.): Isakson told The Guardian that Comey was "the president’s person to hire and the president’s person to fire." 

Sen. James Lankford (Okla.): Lankford said in a statement that “it is unfortunate that over the past year the Director had lost the trust of so many people on both sides of the aisle.”

Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSupreme Court takes on same-sex wedding cake case House approves motion to go to tax conference — with drama Trump really will shrink government, starting with national monuments MORE (Utah): Lee told Glenn Beck's radio show that "I think part of what happened at least, James Comey had become the issue."

Sen. Mitch McConnell (Ky.): The Senate’s top Republican hasn’t given his opinion of the firing but defended Trump against a wave of Democratic criticism on the Senate floor. He said “our Democratic colleagues [are] complaining about the removal of an FBI director whom they themselves repeatedly and sharply criticized.”

 

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulLexington mayor launches bid for Congress Trump-free Kennedy Center Honors avoids politics Meet the Iran hawk who could be Trump's next secretary of State MORE (R-Ky.): Paul tweeted "Hypocrisy and fake outrage? Dems had been calling for months for the firing of Comey!"

Sen. David Perdue (Ga.): Perdue said in a statement that “President Trump acted decisively and within his authority, and I stand behind him.”

Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.): Shelby told the Independent Journal Review that "a lot of people thought he wouldn’t last long anyway, either under a Democratic administration or a Republican."

 

Sen. Luther Strange (Ala.): Strange told Fox News that "I support General Sessions and Rosenstein. I think they did the right thing."

Sen. Pat Toomey (Pa.): Toomey said in a statement that "I have doubted the ability of Director Comey to lead the FBI effectively for some time now, but the timing of his dismissal is unfortunate."

Sen. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerSenator predicts Congress will wrap up tax work in two weeks The Hill's Whip List: Where Republicans stand on Senate tax bill US warship collides with Japanese tug boat MORE (Miss.): Wicker told Fox News that Comey "has been controversial over time ... this has come from Democrats and Republicans. He has sort of been theatrical. I think he's taken positions that were not within the purview of the FBI Director, more appropriate for the attorney general." 

Sen. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungThe Hill's Whip List: Where Republicans stand on Senate tax bill Republican senators wrestle with their Roy Moore problem GOP mobilizes against Moore MORE (Ind.): Young told an Indiana TV station that he was "working to learn the facts behind (the) decision but I hope new leadership [at] the FBI will help restore Americans' confidence."

 

Neither (11)

Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOvernight Finance: Trump says shutdown 'could happen' | Ryan, conservatives inch closer to spending deal | Senate approves motion to go to tax conference | Ryan promises 'entitlement reform' in 2018 Senate approves motion to go to tax conference House conservatives, Ryan inch closer toward spending deal MORE (Tenn.) said in a statement that “it would have been easier to explain if the president had fired the FBI Director earlier when Senator Schumer and other Democrats said they’d lost confidence in Mr. Comey. Given the timing, it’s imperative that the Senate, through its confirmation process, makes certain that the new FBI Director is a person of unquestioned integrity who can lead the FBI.”

Sen. Joni Ernst (Iowa): Ernst spokeswoman Brook Hougesen told the Des Moines Register that "Senator Ernst has said the Director of the FBI serves at the pleasure of the president; therefore, this decision was up to President Trump to make."

Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerDems look to use Moore against GOP McConnell: 'No change of heart' on Roy Moore US trade deficit rises on record imports from China MORE (Colo.): Gardner thanked Comey for his service, adding in a statement to the Denver Post that "the next director of the FBI, like Comey, must be an independent voice for the bureau — specifically for its continued investigation into Russia’s involvement with our election process."

Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerDems look to use Moore against GOP Senate hearing shows Fed chair nominee acts the part Senate GOP votes to begin debate on tax bill MORE (Nev.): Heller said in a statement that "our country is facing extraordinary times coupled with extraordinary events, and there is nothing more important than getting to the bottom of Russia's attempt to interfere with our elections."

Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonOvernight Cybersecurity: Panel pushes agencies on dropping Kaspersky software | NC county won't pay ransom to hackers | Lawmakers sound alarm over ISIS 'cyber caliphate' GOP chairman warns of ISIS's ‘cyber caliphate’ Overnight Finance: House approves motion to go to tax conference — with drama | GOP leaders to consider Dec. 30 spending bill | Justices skeptical of ban on sports betting | Mulvaney won't fire official who sued him MORE (Wis.): Johnson said in a statement, “I thank Director Comey for his service and wish him well in the future.”

Sen. Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranMcConnell works to salvage tax bill GOP in furious push for tax-reform votes Overnight Tech: Lawmakers want answers on Uber breach | Justices divided in patent case | Tech makes plea for net neutrality on Cyber Monday MORE (Kan.): Moran said in an email to the Hays Post that "the American people deserve more information about the circumstances of Mr. Comey's dismissal." 

 

Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsSenate passes tax overhaul, securing major GOP victory Top GOP senators say they have the votes to pass tax bill The Hill's Whip List: Where Republicans stand on Senate tax bill MORE (Kansas): Roberts said in a statement that "the best way to restore trust in the competency of the FBI is with a swift conformation of a new FBI director."

 

Sen. Mike Rounds (S.D.): Rounds said in a statement that "we expect the investigations into Russia’s attempt to interfere with the 2016 election to continue. His termination will not be allowed to impede in these investigations.”

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioRyan pledges 'entitlement reform' in 2018 Richard Gere welcomes lawmakers' words of support for Tibet Dem lawmaker gives McConnell's tax reform op-ed a failing grade MORE (Fla.): Rubio told reporters that he didn't have an “initial reaction” but he had a “good relationship” with Comey. 

Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees GOP senator: Trump shouldn't pardon Flynn Trump should fill CFPB vacancy with Export-Import chief MORE (S.C.): Scott told reporters that "the timing is interesting, and I want to learn more about that. But at the end of the day, before passing judgment, I want to understand and appreciate the sequence of events that occurred."
 
Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisGOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration Grassley offers DACA fix tied to tough enforcement measures We are running out of time to protect Dreamers MORE (N.C.): Tillis said in a statement that “it is my belief he attempted to lead the FBI to the best of his ability given the difficult circumstances before him and the hyperpartisan political climate that exists in Washington.”

 

–– This report was updated at 5:54 p.m.