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Schumer to Trump: Comey firing a 'big mistake'

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden 'encouraged' by meeting with congressional leaders on infrastructure Republicans welcome the chance to work with Democrats on a bipartisan infrastructure bill Cheney sideshow distracts from important battle over Democrats' partisan voting bill 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 SessionsOne quick asylum fix: How Garland can help domestic violence survivors Biden fills immigration court with Trump hires Trump admin got phone records of WaPo reporters covering Russia probe: report 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 CornynGOP split on counteroffer to Biden's spending Police reform talks hit familiar stumbling block CNN asks Carol Baskin to comment on loose Texas tiger 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.