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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 McConnellBiden says Beau's assessment of first 100 days would be 'Be who you are' McConnell says he's 'great admirer' of Liz Cheney but mum on her removal McConnell: 'Good chance' of deal with Biden on infrastructure 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 BoozmanSenate GOP opens door to earmarks Arkansas governor quietly bucking GOP's dive into culture wars Trump allies line up ahead of potentially bruising primaries 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 BurrGOP senator urges Biden to withdraw support for COVID vaccine patent waiver Utah county GOP censures Romney over Trump impeachment vote Battle lines drawn over Biden's support for vaccine waivers 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 CapitoEPA water nominee commits to 'enduring solutions' in confirmation hearing Biden meets for first time with 'Big Four' congressional leaders The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Cheney poised to be ousted; Biden to host big meeting 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 CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  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 FlakeThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Republican reactions to Cheney's removal Flake: No greater offense than honesty in today's Republican Party Cheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP 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 sees immigration as path to regain power The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - All US adults now eligible for COVID vaccines The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - All US adults can get vaccine; decision Friday on J&J vax 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 McCainRepublicans have dumped Reagan for Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Cheney poised to be ousted; Biden to host big meeting Cheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP 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 MurkowskiCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP Utah county GOP censures Romney over Trump impeachment vote Bottom line 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 PortmanHouse conservatives take aim at Schumer-led bipartisan China bill Strengthen CBP regulations to reduce opioid deaths House panel advances bipartisan retirement savings bill 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 ThuneTop Democrat: FCC actions are a 'potential setback' to autonomous vehicles Biden-McConnell cold war unlikely to end at White House Top female GOP senator compares Cheney ousting to 'cancel culture' 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 BluntDemocratic Kansas City, Mo., mayor eyes Senate run Democrats, GOP agree on one thing: They're skeptical of a deal Senate panel deadlocks in vote on sweeping elections bill 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 CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Cheney poised to be ousted; Biden to host big meeting Senate votes to repeal OCC 'true lender' rule Top female GOP senator compares Cheney ousting to 'cancel culture' 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 ClintonMore than half of eligible Latinos voted in 2020, setting record Fox News signs Trey Gowdy, Dan Bongino for new shows The Memo: GOP attacks bounce off Biden MORE and to offer his personal views of Mrs. Clinton’s actions.”

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynPolice reform talks hit familiar stumbling block CNN asks Carol Baskin to comment on loose Texas tiger Biden-McConnell cold war unlikely to end at White House 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 Bryant CottonTim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls Opposition to refugees echoes one of America's most shameful moments White House defends CDC outreach to teachers union 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 CrapoDemocrats, GOP agree on one thing: They're skeptical of a deal Top Republican seeks clarity on estimate of trillion in unpaid taxes Biden to meet with GOP senators amid infrastructure push 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 CruzYang: Those who thought tweet in support of Israel was 'overly simplistic' are correct CNN asks Carol Baskin to comment on loose Texas tiger Republicans have dumped Reagan for Trump 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 GrahamTrump critics push new direction for GOP Graham warns about trying to 'drive' Trump from GOP: 'Half the people will leave' Cheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP 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 GrassleyChuck GrassleyOn The Money: Biden says workers can't turn down job and get benefits | Treasury launches state and local aid | Businesses jump into vax push Grassley criticizes Biden's proposal to provide IRS with B The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Infrastructure, Cheney ouster on deck as Congress returns 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 HatchBottom line The Republicans' deep dive into nativism Press: Forget bipartisanship — it's dead! 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 InhofeOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senate nixes Trump rule limiting methane regulation | Senate confirms EPA chief: Biden's climate goals are 'an opportunity to lead' | Fine-particle pollution disproportionately hurts people of color: research EPA chief: Biden's climate goals are 'an opportunity to lead' Senate confirms Pentagon policy chief criticized by Republicans for tweets 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 IsaksonLoeffler group targets Democrats with billboards around baseball stadium Warnock raises nearly M since January victory Five big takeaways on Georgia's new election law 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 LeeHillicon Valley: Global cybersecurity leaders say they feel unprepared for attack | Senate Commerce Committee advances Biden's FTC nominee Lina Khan | Senate panel approves bill that would invest billions in tech Senate Commerce Committee advances Biden's FTC nominee Lina Khan GOP governor says Republican Party has to allow for differences 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 PaulBuckingham Palace requests 'Trump Train' remove image of queen from bus The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Cheney poised to be ousted; Biden to host big meeting Overnight Health Care: Biden announces 1M have enrolled in special ObamaCare sign-up period | Rand Paul clashes with Fauci over coronavirus origins | Biden vows to get 'more aggressive' on lifestyle benefits of vaccines 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: Global cybersecurity leaders say they feel unprepared for attack | Senate Commerce Committee advances Biden's FTC nominee Lina Khan | Senate panel approves bill that would invest billions in tech Senate Commerce Committee advances Biden's FTC nominee Lina Khan Democrats, GOP agree on one thing: They're skeptical of a deal 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 YoungSenate panel approves bill that would invest billions in tech Senate to vote on bill aimed at countering China's influence this month House conservatives take aim at Schumer-led bipartisan China bill 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 AlexanderLamar AlexanderThe Republicans' deep dive into nativism Senate GOP faces retirement brain drain The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the National Shooting Sports Foundation - CDC news on gatherings a step toward normality 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 GardnerBiden administration reverses Trump changes it says 'undermined' conservation program Gardner to lead new GOP super PAC ahead of midterms OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court rules against fast-track of Trump EPA's 'secret science' rule | Bureau of Land Management exodus: Agency lost 87 percent of staff in Trump HQ relocation | GM commits to electric light duty fleet by 2035 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 JohnsonRand Paul clashes with Fauci over coronavirus origins Sunday shows preview: Coronavirus dominates as White House continues to push vaccination effort Overnight Health Care: WHO-backed Covax gets a boost from Moderna 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) MoranBottom line Hawley votes against anti-Asian hate crime bill Senate passes anti-Asian hate crimes bill 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 GOP faces retirement brain drain Roy Blunt won't run for Senate seat in 2022 Lobbying world 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 RubioThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Cheney poised to be ousted; Biden to host big meeting Senate votes to repeal OCC 'true lender' rule Democrats cool on Crist's latest bid for Florida governor 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 ScottPolice reform talks hit familiar stumbling block Biden adds pressure to congressional talks with self-imposed deadlines Republicans can win back control in 2022 — if they don't 'cancel' themselves first 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 TillisSenate hears from Biden's high-profile judicial nominees for first time Senate Democrats take aim at 'true lender' interest rate rule Former North Carolina chief justice launches Senate campaign 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.