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 McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by Facebook — Washington, Wall Street on edge about coronavirus Overnight Energy: Murkowski, Manchin unveil major energy bill | Lawmakers grill EPA chief over push to slash agency's budget | GOP lawmaker accuses Trump officials of 'playing politics' over Yucca Mountain Lawmakers race to pass emergency coronavirus funding 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 BoozmanOn The Money: Stocks have worst week in a decade on coronavirus fears | Fed chief hints at rate cut | Trump pushes central bank for action | Kudlow advises investors to 'think about buying the dip' Republicans growing nervous about 2020 economy Overnight Defense: Pentagon policy chief resigns at Trump's request | Trump wishes official 'well in his future endeavors' | Armed Services chair warns against Africa drawdown after trip 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 BurrTrump again taps Ratcliffe to serve as intelligence chief Surveillance fight emerges as intelligence flashpoint Congress eyes killing controversial surveillance program 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 CapitoRepublicans growing nervous about 2020 economy Trump hammers Manchin over impeachment vote Senate drama surrounding Trump trial starts to fizzle 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 CorkerMcConnell, Romney vie for influence over Trump's trial RNC says ex-Trump ambassador nominee's efforts 'to link future contributions to an official action' were 'inappropriate' Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight 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 FlakeAppeals court refuses to throw out Joe Arpaio's guilty verdict after Trump pardon 70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents McSally ties Democratic rival Kelly to Sanders in new ad 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 HoevenGOP, Democrats hash out 2020 strategy at dueling retreats Senate drama surrounding Trump trial starts to fizzle Bottom Line 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 McCainFox's Britt McHenry confirms brain tumor, says she's got 'amazing medical team' President Trump is weak against Bernie Sanders in foreign affairs Appeals court refuses to throw out Joe Arpaio's guilty verdict after Trump pardon 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 MurkowskiSchumer urges GOP to oppose Trump's intel pick Overnight Energy: Murkowski, Manchin unveil major energy bill | Lawmakers grill EPA chief over push to slash agency's budget | GOP lawmaker accuses Trump officials of 'playing politics' over Yucca Mountain Murkowski, Manchin introduce major energy legislation 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 PortmanSeniors, businesses grapple with landmark retirement law Where do we go from here? Conservation can show the way GOP senators offering bill to cement business provision in Trump tax law 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 ThuneSchumer requesting .5 billion in emergency funding on coronavirus Republicans give Barr vote of confidence Trump creates new headaches for GOP with top intelligence pick 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 BluntTrump upends controversial surveillance fight Congress eyes killing controversial surveillance program Senate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony 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 CollinsSchumer urges GOP to oppose Trump's intel pick Education Department changing eligibility for hundreds of rural school districts receiving aid: report Experts sound alarm over online scams against the elderly 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 ClintonWatch live: Trump holds a rally in South Carolina On the ground at CPAC: Republicans see Sanders as formidable foe Home state candidates risk losing primaries MORE and to offer his personal views of Mrs. Clinton’s actions.”

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynGOP, Democrats hash out 2020 strategy at dueling retreats Congress eyes killing controversial surveillance program Hillicon Valley: Twitter falling short on pledge to verify primary candidates | Barr vows to make surveillance reforms after watchdog report | DHS cyber chief focused on 2020 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 CottonAsian caucus urges fellow lawmakers not to 'perpetuate racist stereotypes' amid coronavirus fears Overnight Defense: More closures possible at US bases in Europe as coronavirus spreads | Pompeo says Afghan 'reduction in violence is working' | Man accused of trying to blow up vehicle at Pentagon Top general: More closures at US bases in Europe possible as coronavirus spreads 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 CrapoRepublican lobbying firms riding high despite uncertainty of 2020 race Lobbying World Ernst endorses bipartisan Grassley-Wyden bill to lower drug prices 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 CruzGOP chairwoman suggests RNC plans to get 'litigious' over push for national popular vote The Hill's Campaign Report: Sanders top target at CPAC Bloomberg campaign manager says they have considered naming running mate during primaries 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 GrahamMSNBC's Chris Matthews confuses South Carolina Democratic Senate candidate with GOP's Tim Scott Lindsey Graham thanks Trump, bemoans 'never-ending bull----' at South Carolina rally  The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by Facebook — Washington, Wall Street on edge about coronavirus 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 GrassleySeniors, businesses grapple with landmark retirement law Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — California monitoring 8,400 people for coronavirus | Pence taps career official to coordinate response | Dems insist on guardrails for funding Top Trump advisers discuss GOP need to act on health care at retreat with senators 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 HatchTrump administration backs Oracle in Supreme Court battle against Google Timeline: Trump and Romney's rocky relationship Key Republicans say Biden can break Washington gridlock 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 InhofeBipartisan senators say Pentagon's effort to improve military housing falls short Lobbying World GOP chairman after Africa trip: US military drawdown would have 'real and lasting negative consequences' 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 IsaksonJohnny IsaksonGOP, Democrats hash out 2020 strategy at dueling retreats Loeffler releases new ad targeting Sanders's 'socialism' House Freedom Caucus chairman endorses Collins's Georgia Senate bid 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 LeeThe Hill's Campaign Report: Sanders top target at CPAC Trump upends controversial surveillance fight Former impeachment managers clash over surveillance bill 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 PaulHillicon Valley — Presented by Facebook — Federal court rules tech giants can censor content | Trump upends surveillance fight | Senate passes bill barring federal funds for Huawei equipment Trump upends controversial surveillance fight Former impeachment managers clash over surveillance bill 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 WickerHillicon Valley — Presented by Facebook — Federal court rules tech giants can censor content | Trump upends surveillance fight | Senate passes bill barring federal funds for Huawei equipment Senate unanimously approves bill to ban purchase of Huawei equipment with federal funds The Hill's Morning Report - Sanders repeats with NH primary win, but with narrower victory 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 YoungLobbying World Republican Senate campaign arm hauled in over million in January The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in 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 AlexanderLawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response Bill Barr is trying his best to be Trump's Roy Cohn The Trump administration's harmful and immoral attack on children 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 GardnerThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump on US coronavirus risks: 'We're very, very ready for this' GOP, Democrats hash out 2020 strategy at dueling retreats The Hill's Morning Report - Can Sanders be stopped? 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 HellerOn The Trail: Democrats plan to hammer Trump on Social Security, Medicare Lobbying World Democrats spend big to put Senate in play 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 JohnsonSurveillance fight emerges as intelligence flashpoint Congress eyes killing controversial surveillance program Whistleblower retaliation: Stop confusing unlawful attacks with politics 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) MoranExperts sound alarm over online scams against the elderly The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in Overnight Defense: Senate votes to rein in Trump war powers on Iran | Pentagon shifting .8B to border wall | US, Taliban negotiate seven-day 'reduction in violence' 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 RobertsGOP, Democrats hash out 2020 strategy at dueling retreats Republicans give Barr vote of confidence On the Trail: Senate GOP hopefuls tie themselves to Trump 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 RubioHome state candidates risk losing primaries The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump on US coronavirus risks: 'We're very, very ready for this' Overnight Energy: Critics pile on Trump plan to roll back major environmental law | Pick for Interior No. 2 official confirmed | JPMorgan Chase to stop loans for fossil fuel drilling in the Arctic 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 ScottMSNBC's Chris Matthews confuses South Carolina Democratic Senate candidate with GOP's Tim Scott Why Republicans do better than Democrats for black Americans GOP casts Sanders as 2020 boogeyman 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 senator presses Pentagon on protecting service members from coronavirus Chamber looks to support Democratic allies in 2020 The Hill's Campaign Report: What to watch for in Nevada 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.