McConnell defends Trump decision to fire Comey

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellCoronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks Overnight Health Care: Ohio governor tests positive for COVID-19 ahead of Trump's visit | US shows signs of coronavirus peak, but difficult days lie ahead | Trump: COVID-19 vaccine may be ready 'right around' Election Day MORE (R-Ky.) on Wednesday morning defended President Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey.

McConnell noted that Democrats had fiercely criticized Comey in recent weeks because of his role in the 2016 election. He also pointed out that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who recommended Comey’s dismissal, won Senate confirmation by a strong bipartisan vote and was praised by Democrats only a few weeks ago.

“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.”

ADVERTISEMENT

McConnell was followed by Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerCoronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Senate Democrats push to include free phone calls for incarcerated people in next relief package Trump backs plan to give airlines another billion in aid MORE (D-N.Y.), who sharply criticized the firing and renewed his call for McConnell to agree to a special investigator to look into Russia's meddling in the 2016 election and possible ties between Moscow and Trump's campaign. 

The rest of the Democratic caucus sat at their desks behind Schumer, an action meant to underline the gravity of the moment, from that party's point of view. 

“There is little reason to think that Mr. Rosenstein’s letter is the true reason that President Trump fired Director Comey,” he asserted, arguing that if the president really had an objection to the outcome of the Clinton investigation he should have fired him at the start of his term in January.

“But he didn’t fire Director Comey then. The question is, why did it happen last night?” he said.

Schumer reminded reporters that Rosenstein had promised in testimony before the Judiciary Committee to appoint a special prosecutor at the appropriate time.

“That time is right now,” Schumer said. “The American people’s trust in our criminal justice system is in Mr. Rosenstein’s hands.”

McConnell dismissed calls by Democrats — joined by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCainJohn Sidney McCainCNN's Ana Navarro to host Biden roundtable on making 'Trump a one-term president' Mark Kelly clinches Democratic Senate nod in Arizona Prominent conservatives question Jerry Falwell Jr. vacation photo MORE (R-Ariz.) — for the appointment of a special prosecutor or independent commission to investigate Russia’s influence in the Trump campaign, which the FBI is now investigating.

He argued that the Senate Intelligence Committee is already reviewing the matter, as is the FBI, and empowering another investigative authority could hamper their work.

“Today we’ll do doubt hear calls for a new investigation, which could only serve to impede the current work being done to not only discover what the Russians may have done [but] also to let this body and the national security community develop countermeasures and war-fighting doctrine to see that it doesn’t occur again,” McConnell said. 

McConnell argued that that Rosenstein recommended the president replace Comey for some of the same reasons that Democrats criticized the FBI director, specifically the handling of an investigation of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump touts economic agenda in battleground Ohio The Memo: Campaigns gird for rush of early voting Trump's pitch to Maine lobstermen falls flat MORE that Clinton herself says likely cost her the election.

He reminded colleagues that Rosenstein was confirmed to his post by a vote of 94 to 6 and that Schumer recently praised his independence and integrity.