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.

{mosads}Trump scored his most prominent defender on Wednesday when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (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 Boozman (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 Burr (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 Capito (W.Va.): Capito told ABC News that “I think we need to find out what’s happened and why.”

Sen. Bob Corker (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 Flake (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 Hoeven (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 McCain (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 Murkowski (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 Portman (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 Thune (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 Blunt (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 Collins (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 Clinton and to offer his personal views of Mrs. Clinton’s actions.”

Sen. John Cornyn (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 Cotton (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 Crapo (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 Cruz (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 Graham (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 Grassley (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 Hatch (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 Inhofe (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 Isakson (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 Lee (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 Paul (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 Wicker (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 Young (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 Alexander (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 Gardner (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 Heller (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 Johnson (Wis.): Johnson said in a statement, “I thank Director Comey for his service and wish him well in the future.”

Sen. Jerry Moran (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 Roberts (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 Rubio (Fla.): Rubio told reporters that he didn’t have an “initial reaction” but he had a “good relationship” with Comey. 

Sen. Tim Scott (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 Tillis (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.

Tags Bob Corker Chuck Grassley Cory Gardner Dean Heller FBI Hillary Clinton James Inhofe Jeff Flake Jerry Moran John Boozman John Cornyn John Hoeven John McCain John Thune Johnny Isakson Lamar Alexander Lindsey Graham Lisa Murkowski Marco Rubio Mike Crapo Mike Lee Mitch McConnell Orrin Hatch Pat Roberts Rand Paul Richard Burr Rob Portman Roger Wicker Ron Johnson Roy Blunt Shelley Moore Capito Susan Collins Ted Cruz Thom Tillis Tim Scott Todd Young Tom Cotton
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