President Trump sent shockwaves through the political world Tuesday evening when he announced he was firing FBI Director James Comey, citing recommendations from the top officials in the Justice Department that included disapproval of the way Comey handled the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server during the campaign.
Although Congressional Democrats had criticized the way Comey handled the investigation into Clinton’s email, they strongly disapproved of the decision to terminate him, calling the timing into suspicion and highlighting concern about the future of the FBI investigation into possible ties between Trump campaign associates and Russia.
Many Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, reiterated their calls for an independent prosecutor to handle to Russia investigation.
The American people need to have faith that an investigation as serious as this one is being conducted impartially, without a shred of bias,” Schumer said shortly after the announcement. “The only way the American people can have faith in this investigation is for it to be led by a fearless, independent special prosecutor.”
Here’s the full transcript of Schumer’s remarks.
SCHUMER: Earlier this afternoon, President Trump called me and informed me he was firing Director Comey.
I told the president, “Mr. President, with all due respect, you are making a big mistake.” The first question the administration has to answer is why now. If the administration had objections to the way Director Comey handled the Clinton investigation, they had those objections the minute the president got into office. But they didn’t fire him then. Why did it happen today?
We know the House is investigating Russian interference in our elections that benefited the Trump campaign.
We know the Senate is investigating. We know the FBI has been looking into whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians — a very serious offense.
Were these investigations getting too close to home for the president? It is troubling that Attorney General Sessions, who had recused himself from the Russian investigation, played a role in firing the man leading it.
So what happens now? Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein sat in the Judiciary Committee and promised to appoint a special prosecutor at the appropriate time. That time is right now. 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 after the administration’s actions today.
This is part of a deeply troubling pattern from the Trump administration. They fired Sally Yates. They fired Preet Bharara. And now they fired Director Comey, the very man leading the investigation. This does not seem to be a coincidence.
This investigation must be run as far away as possible from this White House, and as far away as possible from anyone that President trump has appointed. Given the way the president fired Director Comey, any person who he appoints to lead the Russia investigation will be concerned that he or she will meet the same fate as Director Comey if they run afoul of the administration.
The American people need to have faith that an investigation as serious as this one is being conducted impartially, without a shred of bias. The only way the American people can have faith in this investigation is for it to be led by a fearless, independent special prosecutor.
If Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein does not appoint an independent special prosecutor, every American will rightly suspect that the decision to fire Director Comey was part of a cover-up.
I will take one or two questions.
QUESTION: Are you suggesting this was part of a cover-up? And (OFF-did you convey to President Trump today (ph) that he should appoint — that a special prosecutor should be appointed? And what was his reaction to your response? SCHUMER: I simply said to him, “Mr. President, in all due respect, you’re are making a very big mistake.” And he didn’t really answer.
And I have said from the get-go I think a special prosecutor is the way to go, but now with what has happened it is the only way to go — the only way to go to restore the American people’s faith. Are people going to suspect a cover-up? Absolutely. If an independent special prosecutor is appointed, there can still be faith that we can get to the bottom of this. If not, everyone will suspect a cover-up.
QUESTION: Are you suggesting…
QUESTION: Senator Schumer, you told me last year before the election that you had lost confidence in Comey because of how he handled the e-mail scandal. Do you think that the president’s explanation, that this is the reason why he’s firing him now has credibility with you? Do you believe that?
QUESTION: Or do you think that he’s firing him for another reason?
SCHUMER: I never — I never called on the president to fire Director Comey. I have a lot of questions about how he handled himself.
But the overwhelming question is this — if the administration had the same questions, the event occurred months ago, and they should’ve fired Comey on the day they came into office. All of them occurred before he came into office. So that does not seem to me to be a very logical or persuasive explanation.
Thank you everybody.