Less than 24 hours after President Donald Trump unceremoniously canned FBI Director James Comey, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), said he and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C) have asked Comey to meet with the committee in a closed door session May 16.
“He was due to appear tomorrow with all the other heads of the intelligence community. My hope is that he’ll take advantage of this opportunity,” Warner told CNBC.
The fallout from Comey’s unexpected dismissal sent the White House and its surrogates scrambling as Democrats and Republicans alike questioned the wisdom, motivation and timing of the president’s action.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said “the echo of Watergate is strong here” and Burr, calling Comey’s dismissal “a loss for the Bureau and the nation,” said he was “troubled by the timing and reasoning of Director Comey’s termination.”
Comey was in the middle of investigating potential collusion between members of the Trump administration and Russian operatives who interfered with the presidential election last year.
Just days before he was fired, Comey, who testified on potential collusion before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, had asked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for additional resources to expand and accelerate the probe. Attorney General Jeff Sessions had recused himself from anything related to the investigation after it was found that he didn’t disclose his own meetings with Russians during his Senate confirmation.
Trump said Comey was let go for mishandling the probe into Hillary Clinton’s emails, something that he’d once praised the Comey for doing.
The president stuck to that message Wednesday. “Very simply, he was not doing a good job,” he told the press as he met with Richard Nixon’s former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Trump also met Wednesday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, whose meetings with Trump surrogates like Carter Page and Jeff Sessions during the campaign raised eyebrows and fueld rumors of a Russia-White House connection.
While White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said it was “inappropriate” to question the timing of Comey’s dismissal, spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders told Sean Hannity it was time to “move on” from the Russian probe since no wrongdoing had been found.
She took that same stance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” claiming “we’ve had almost an entire year that they have spent, the House committees, the Senate committees, the FBI, everyone has looked into this and everybody comes to the same conclusion.”
But co-host Mika Brzezinski challenged Huckabee Sanders, saying, “You’re not actually telling the truth right now.”
Some lawmakers believe that the FBI probe, which includes scrutiny of Russia hackers’ infiltration of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and others affiliated with Hillary Clinton’s campaign, will continue unimpeded. The firing renewed calls for a special prosecutor to lead a separate investigation, but Sen. Mitch McConnell nixed that idea, saying, “Today we’ll no doubt hear calls for a new investigation, which could only serve to impede the current work being done.”
Burr and Warner have vowed to run a bipartisan investigation and most recently asked a number of Trump associates to provide documentation on their relations with Russia to their committee, with limited response. They also petitioned the Treasury Department to provide information on Trump and some of his top aides.
“We’ve made a request, to FinCEN in the Treasury Department, to make sure, not just for example vis-a-vis the President, but just overall our effort to try to follow the intel no matter where it leads,” Warner told CNN. “You get materials that show if there have been, what level of financial ties between, I mean some of the stuff, some of the Trump-related officials, Trump campaign-related officials and other officials and where those dollars flow — not necessarily from Russia.”