Comey firing: Dems ramp up calls for special prosecutor in Russia probe

"I think it's startling that Democrats aren't celebrating this," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Wednesday.
By Andrew V. Pestano and Doug G. Ware  |  May 10, 2017 at 4:48 PM
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May 10 (UPI) -- Democrats have ramped up calls for a special prosecutor to investigate Russia's alleged meddling in the U.S. election, in the wake of President Donald Trump's dismissal of FBI Director James Comey.

Some Democrats have accused Trump's administration of attempting a coverup by ridding itself of the man leading the Justice Department investigation into potential ties between his campaign and the Kremlin.

Democratic lawmakers have also urged Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who's overseeing the DOJ probe because of Attorney General Jeff Sessions' prior recusal, to appoint the special prosecutor.

"If we don't get a special prosecutor, every American will rightfully suspect that the decision to fire Comey was part of a coverup," Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., wrote in a statement Tuesday.

"The American people's trust in our criminal justice system is in Rosenstein's hands ... Mr. Rosenstein, America depends on you to restore faith in our criminal justice system, which is going to be badly shattered at the administration's actions today," he added in a press conference.

Trump said he fired Comey following "clear" advice from Sessions and Rosenstein, who, among other reasons, cited Comey's handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails as the reason he should be dismissed.

"Now it's even more important that an independent special counsel is appointed to investigate the Russian interference in our elections," Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., said.

Democrats have questioned the timing of Trump's decision to fire Comey. Wednesday, the White House said he'd been mulling Comey's dismissal as early as November 8.

"The President, over the last several months, lost confidence in Director Comey. The [Justice Department] lost confidence in Director Comey," Trump spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at Wednesday's news briefing. "Frankly, he'd been considering letting Director Comey go since the day he was elected."

"I think it's startling that Democrats aren't celebrating this," she continued. "Maybe they should spend a little more time doing their jobs and we wouldn't have all the problems we do."

Sanders said Rosenstein and Sessions went to Trump on Monday with their recommendation that Comey be dismissed.

House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi said Trump's "sudden and brazen firing of the FBI director raises the ghosts of some of the worst executive branch abuses" in American history.

"We cannot stand by and watch a coverup of the possible collusion with a hostile foreign power to undermine American democracy," Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement. "The interests of justice demand Congress act immediately to create an independent, bipartisan commission to pursue the Trump-Russia investigation free from the administration's attempts to silence it."

A few Republicans are also scratching their heads over the FBI chief's firing. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called Comey a "man of honor and integrity" who "led the FBI well in extraordinary circumstances."

"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," McCain said in a statement. "I have long called for a special congressional committee to investigate Russia's interference in the 2016 election. The president's decision to remove the FBI director only confirms the need and the urgency of such a committee."

Some likened Trump's move to the 1973 "Saturday Night Massacre" in which former President Richard Nixon fired special Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox -- in a move that also led Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus to resign.

Former CBS News anchor Dan Rather also called for a special investigator in the Russia case.

"If there is a coverup, if our nation is at the risk that has certainly been more than suggested, it is incumbent upon everyone who claims to love this nation to demand answers," Rather wrote in a statement. "We need a special prosecutor. We need an independent investigation. There is, obviously, much we don't know about what has just happened, why it happened and why now. Just as obviously there is much more, so much more that we need know. We need to damn the lies and expose the truth."

Democrats first started asking for a special prosecutor after it was revealed that Sessions and several Trump campaign associates had contact with Russian officials.

The White House is presently seeking a replacement to lead the FBI.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the ranking Democrat in the Judiciary Committee, said the "next FBI director must be strong and independent and will receive a fair hearing."

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