- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 14, 2017

Several Republican lawmakers warned Sunday that President Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James B. Comey will have long-term repercussions on public trust in government, but Democrats have more immediate issues on their mind.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said his party will consider blocking nominations to head the investigative bureau until a special prosecutor is appointed to investigate Russia’s meddling in the presidential election.

“We will have to discuss it as a caucus, but I would support that move, because who the FBI director is is related to who the special prosecutor is,” Mr. Schumer said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“The key here, of course, is getting some of our Republican colleagues to join us,” he said. “We’re hoping. We’re waiting. We understand it’s difficult, but I think patriotism and the needs of this country demand it.”

Only a handful of Republican lawmakers have come out in support of a special prosecutor, but many have expressed reservations over the timing and manner of Mr. Comey’s dismissal.

Sen. Ben Sasse, Nebraska Republican and an outspoken critic of Mr. Trump during the presidential race, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday, “I’ve been critical of that decision. I think it exacerbates the erosion of trust in our institutions, so I’m disappointed in the timing of the firing.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who said he is open to the idea of a special prosecutor, was more emphatic. He told the president to “back off” of the Russia investigation — and to stop tweeting about it.

“I would advise the president not to tweet or comment about the investigation as we go forward,” Mr. Graham said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “The Russians did interfere in our election. I don’t think they changed the outcome, have no evidence of collusion. But the president needs to back off here and let the investigation go forward.”

The inauspicious timing of the firing — during an FBI investigation into whether members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russian efforts to influence the U.S. presidential race — was exacerbated by Mr. Trump’s frank acknowledgment that he was unhappy with Mr. Comey’s handling of the probe.

“And, in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said: ‘You know, this Russia thing, with Trump and Russia, is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won,’” the president told NBC News on Thursday.

That declaration also ran contrary to the justification given by the White House earlier in the week — that Mr. Comey was fired on the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, for his handling of the federal investigation into the private email server of Mr. Trump’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

The New York Times also reported that Mr. Comey refused to pledge his loyalty to Mr. Trump during a private dinner in January, giving the president only an assurance of his honesty.

A tweet sent by Mr. Trump on Friday, claiming to have tapes of conversations between himself and Mr. Comey, added another level of intrigue to the unfolding drama.

Mr. Trump’s defenders, meanwhile, point out that executive branch officials serve at the pleasure of the president.

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” “What I can tell you is the president is the CEO of the country. He can hire or fire whoever he wants. That’s his right. Whether you agree with it or not, it’s the truth.”

As to the propriety of the Mr. Comey’s ouster, Mrs. Haley said, “That’s for everybody else to decide.”

Sen. Mike Lee, Utah Republican, noted that the reasons given by Mr. Trump and the Justice Department for firing Mr. Comey are not mutually exclusive.

“I think it’s entirely possible that the president could have had an inclination to take that action beforehand and also have that recommendation given to them by the deputy attorney general,” Mr. Lee said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I think that’s what happened here.”

Others, including the president, pointed out that Democrats made Mr. Comey a scapegoat for Mrs. Clinton’s stunning electoral defeat and were calling for his head just a few months ago.

“I thought this would be a very popular thing that I did when I terminated Comey,” the president said Saturday on the Fox News show “Justice with Judge Jeanine.” “Because all of the Democrats cannot stand him.”

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