The unexpected firing of FBI Director James Comey by President Donald Trump continues to send shock waves across Virginia’s congressional delegation and the nation as lawmakers on both sides of the isle continue to question Trump’s motives and the ongoing investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election.
Republican Congresswoman Barbara Comstock, who represents Loudoun as part of Virginia’s 10th District, condemned the firing in a statement May 9.
“I can’t defend or explain tonight’s actions or timing of the firing of FBI Director James Comey,” Comstock said. “The FBI investigation into the Russian impact on the 2016 election must continue. There must be an independent investigation that the American people can trust.”
Comey had been the target of vitroil from both parties since the past election cycle, taking an unusually public role while investigating former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for the use of a private email server. He became a household name after announcing in a much publicized press conference in July that his investigation hadn’t turn up any conclusive risks from her actions but also condemning her negligent behavior for not using secured government communication channels. He again made headlines with a press conference days before the election by announcing the investigation into Clinton’s email server was being re-opened, a move Clinton and many of her supporters say cost her the election.
While he championed the FBI director during the election, the president’s mood soured as Comey continued looking through potential Russian interference to help Trump secure the White House. These investigations dominated the news cycle, and would eventually lead to the resignation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and force Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from any further investigation after revelations showed both lied about their interactions with Russian officials during the election.
Hours before Trump sent the termination letter, former Attorney General Sally Yates, who the president fired shortly after he took office in January, testified before Congress that she and former President Barack Obama had warned the incoming administration not to hire Flynn. Both said his interactions with Russia made him susceptible to black mail. Trump didn’t heed the advice, and didn’t fire him until his lies were made public.
All this caped a stunning turn of events in what has already been a tumultuous first few months of the Trump Administration. Trump’s executive order implementing a travel ban from several predominately Muslim countries and ongoing efforts to amend the Affordable Care Act have lead to massive protests and citizen activism locally and nationwide. All the while, Trump’s dealing with Russia have cast a shadow many of his detractors say could derail his nascent administration.
Though Comey publicly said his investigation into Trump hadn’t turned up anything damning against the president, a fact Trump noted in his termination letter, he was nevertheless fired. In his letter, Trump said he fired Comey because of how he handled the Clinton investigation, an explanation that instantly drew skepticism from many lawmakers, especially since the president had celebrated Comey’s investigation into his political rival just months earlier. The unlikely explanation, as well as the timing, lead many to accuse Trump of orchestrating a cover up, and some drew comparisons to former President Richard Nixon’s actions during the Watergate scandal, which would ultimately lead to his resignation.
Comey was appointed by Obama and many voiced concerned that Trump’s replacement would not provide an impartial lead in investigations going forward.
“The President’s actions today are shocking. It is deeply troubling that the President has fired the FBI director during an active counterintelligence investigation into improper contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia,” said Virginia Sen. Mark Warner (D) in a statement. “Now more than ever, it is vital that our ongoing investigation is completed in a credible and bipartisan way. We also need to hear directly from former Director Comey about the FBI investigation and related events.”
Warner, who serves as vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee which is also investigating Trump, said a special, independent council must be appointed to continue the investigation. So far Republicans, who control both chamber of Congress, have left the investigation to the FBI.
Trump will now appoint a new FBI director, which will need approval from the Senate. Republicans hold a 52-48 majoirty, and many Democrats have already said they will oppose any appointee that doesn’t objectively continue the investigation. Virginia’s other Senator, former Democratic Vice Presidental nominee Tim Kaine, also blasted Trump’s actions on social media.
Trump firing Comey shows how frightened the Admin is over Russia investigation
— Senator Tim Kaine (@timkaine) May 9, 2017
Comey firing part of a growing pattern by White House to cover-up the truth
— Senator Tim Kaine (@timkaine) May 9, 2017