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.

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Trump scored his most prominent defender on Wednesday when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRand Paul blocking Trump counterterrorism nominee On The Money: Trump, Senate leaders to huddle on border wall funding | Fed bank regulator walks tightrope on Dodd-Frank | Koch-backed groups blast incentives for corporations after Amazon deal Congress is going to make marijuana moves 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 BoozmanOvernight Defense: Duncan Hunter refusing to step down from committees | Trump awards Medal of Honor to widow of airman | Pentagon names pick for Mideast commander Trump awards posthumous Medal of Honor to family of fallen Air Force sergeant GOP senators introduce resolution endorsing ICE 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 BurrRand Paul blocking Trump counterterrorism nominee Senate panel seeks interview with Steve Bannon, lawyer says Dems can use subpoena power to reclaim the mantle of populism 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 CapitoErnst elected to Senate GOP leadership Court rules against Trump administration on gillnet ban rollback The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Dem path to a Senate majority narrows 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 CorkerSenators return to Washington intent on action against Saudis Paul Ryan shares video of Mitt Romney dropping by in Washington Senate GOP readies for leadership reshuffle 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 FlakeFlake says he'll oppose judicial nominees until Mueller bill gets vote Bill to protect Mueller blocked in Senate Sinema: ‘I would have considered’ a challenger to Schumer 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 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 McCainCortez Masto poised to become DSCC chair Implementation matters: Making certain the VA Mission Act will work for veterans Students protesting Shapiro chant ‘John McCain’s dead’ 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 MurkowskiErnst elected to Senate GOP leadership Earmarks look to be making a comeback Trump and Pelosi set to collide as Democrats celebrate their power 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 PortmanThe case for bipartisan solutions GOP lawmakers condemn attempted attacks on Democrats Trump takes steps to punish Saudi Arabia 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 ThuneThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — Leadership elections in Congress | Freshman lawmakers arrive | Trump argues he can restrict reporter access Ernst elected to Senate GOP leadership McConnell reelected as leader, Thune promoted to whip 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 BluntMcConnell: Congress aiming for deal on sexual harassment bill this year The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — Leadership elections in Congress | Freshman lawmakers arrive | Trump argues he can restrict reporter access Ernst elected to Senate GOP leadership 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 CollinsDems vow swift action on gun reform next year Collins reiterates call for legislation to protect Mueller investigation GOP nerves on edge after Sinema takes lead over McSally 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 ClintonMeet the lawyer Democrats call when it's recount time Overnight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Mattis defends border deployment during visit to troops | Bolton aide exits WH after clash with first lady | House blocks Yemen war resolution | Report warns of erosion in US military superiority Exit polls show more women breaking with Republicans MORE and to offer his personal views of Mrs. Clinton’s actions.”

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynTrump throws support behind criminal justice bill McConnell reelected as leader, Thune promoted to whip This week: Congress starts lame-duck with leadership fight 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 CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonTrump throws support behind criminal justice bill McConnell reelected as leader, Thune promoted to whip Criminal justice reform faces a make-or-break moment 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 CrapoSenate GOP readies for leadership reshuffle Waters defends planned probe of Trump finances after GOP backlash Grassley to make chairmanship decision after meeting with colleagues next week 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 CruzO'Rourke receives invite to visit Iowa from Democratic Party in Des Moines O'Rourke and Cruz run into each other at Texas airport Texas congresswoman-elect says she would ‘love’ to see Beto run in 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 GrahamSenators return to Washington intent on action against Saudis Bill to protect Mueller blocked in Senate McConnell: Mueller probe should be allowed to finish 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 GrassleyRand Paul blocking Trump counterterrorism nominee Avenatti arrested over alleged domestic violence: police Trump throws support behind criminal justice bill 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 HatchCongress braces for high-drama lame duck Trump to award Medal of Freedom to Babe Ruth, Elvis, Scalia, Hatch How much power do states have? Supreme Court holds the answer 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 InhofeDefense strategy report warns of grave erosion in US military superiority Divided Congress to clash over Space Force, nuclear arsenal Midterms poised to shake up US-Saudi defense ties 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 IsaksonUS firm goes on lobbying blitz in fight with Angola Trump renews attacks against Tester over VA nominee on eve of Montana rally House conservatives want ethics probe into Dems' handling of Kavanaugh 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 LeeSenators return to Washington intent on action against Saudis Trump throws support behind criminal justice bill Time to pass the First Step Act 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 PaulRand Paul blocking Trump counterterrorism nominee Overnight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Mattis defends border deployment during visit to troops | Bolton aide exits WH after clash with first lady | House blocks Yemen war resolution | Report warns of erosion in US military superiority On The Money: Trump, Senate leaders to huddle on border wall funding | Fed bank regulator walks tightrope on Dodd-Frank | Koch-backed groups blast incentives for corporations after Amazon deal 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 WickerMcConnell reelected as leader, Thune promoted to whip Senate GOP readies for leadership reshuffle GOP's Wicker reelected in Mississippi Senate race 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 YoungMcConnell reelected as leader, Thune promoted to whip This week: Congress starts lame-duck with leadership fight Senate GOP readies for leadership reshuffle 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 AlexanderCongress needs to wake up to nuclear security threat Blackburn keeps Tennessee seat in GOP hands  Overnight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Judge urges insurers to drop challenge over non-ObamaCare plans | Azar vows to push ahead with drug pricing proposal | No increase for ObamaCare outreach budget 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 GardnerTrump, California battle over climate and cause of fires The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — Dems prepare to aggressively wield new oversight powers California governor's office says focus is on wildfires, not Trump's 'inane and uninformed tweets' 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 HellerElection Countdown: Lawsuits fly in Florida recount fight | Nelson pushes to extend deadline | Judge says Georgia county violated Civil Rights Act | Biden, Sanders lead 2020 Dem field in poll | Bloomberg to decide on 2020 by February Sinema invokes McCain in Senate acceptance speech Sinema defeats McSally in Arizona Senate race 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 JohnsonCommerce Department IG to audit Trump's tariff exemptions Trump trip to rural Wisconsin highlights GOP’s turnout concern GOP senator seeking information on FBI dealings with Bruce Ohr, former DOJ lawyer 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) MoranSenate Republicans demand Google hand over memo advising it to hide data vulnerability Overnight Defense — Presented by The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates — Missing journalist strains US-Saudi ties | Senators push Trump to open investigation | Trump speaks with Saudi officials | New questions over support for Saudi coalition in Yemen Senators demand answers on Trump administration backing of Saudi coalition in Yemen 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 RobertsEvangelical leader: Not worth risking ties with Saudi Arabia over missing journalist GOP loads up lame-duck agenda as House control teeters Congress allows farm bill to lapse before reauthorization deadline 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 RubioRubio defends '3 point kick' analogy: 'You think everyone who follows politics knows what a field goal is?' Lawmakers to introduce bipartisan bill targeting China's treatment of Muslims Rubio cites Bible verse amid recount criticisms: ‘You cannot count what is not there’ 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 ScottTime to pass the First Step Act Debbie Stabenow reelected to a fourth Senate term in Michigan Trump should stick to his guns and close failed South Carolina nuclear MOX project 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 TillisBill to protect Mueller blocked in Senate McConnell: Mueller probe should be allowed to finish Graham backs bill to protect Mueller 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.