Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called Tuesday evening on the deputy attorney general, in the wake of the firing of FBI Director James Comey, to appoint an independent special counsel to investigate whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia or face charges of a “cover-up.”
“If Deputy Attorney General [Rod] 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,” Schumer said at a hastily called Capitol Hill news conference.
Schumer called it “troubling” that Attorney General Jeff Sessions “played a role in the firing of the man leading” the Russian probe.
Sessions recused himself from the Russian investigation because he had not disclosed during his Senate confirmation hearing that he had twice met with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, during the presidential campaign.
And Schumer said he worried about a pattern — the firing of acting Attorney General Sally Yates, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and now Comey.
When Trump called Tuesday afternoon to say he was firing Comey, Schumer said he told him, “Mr. President, with all due respect, you are making a big mistake.”
Schumer last year said he had lost faith in Comey over his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation — a fact noted by the Trump administration in materials handed out to reporters after Comey’s firing. But Schumer said, “I never called on the president to fire Director Comey.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) also stressed the need for an outside probe.
“No more excuses: We need an independent special prosecutor to investigate the Trump Administration’s ties to Russia,” she tweeted.
Later, she tweeted, “AG Sessions lied under oath about meetings with Kislyak. One way to exert control after recusal is by getting rid of FBI Director. Chilling.”
Among members of Long Island’s congressional delegation, Rep. Pete King (R-Seaford) said, “I’ve always had a good relationship with Jim Comey. . . . My own feelings, I always found him to be straight and honorable.”
He added: “I’m not trying to be funny, but I guess this is one issue Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton agree on.”
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) said Comey’s firing offers the FBI a chance at a “fresh start” to rebuild trust.
“James Comey was in an incredibly challenging situation last year with so many factors and enormous pressures coming down to bear on him and his agency from the highest levels and with the highest stakes,” Zeldin wrote in a statement. “Ultimately, President Trump’s decision does in fact present the Bureau with a fresh start and the type of new beginning that has enormous potential to restore any broken trust wherever it may exist.”
Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) agreed with Schumer and Gillibrand. “I am calling for a special prosecutor to be appointed immediately to conduct an investigation into President Trump and the Trump campaign’s relationships with [Vladimir] Putin and Russia,” he wrote in a statement.
Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) tweeted that the firing was a “crisis.”
“President Trump just fired the FBI Director in the midst of an ongoing FBI investigation into the Trump campaign. This is a crisis. #Comey,” she tweeted Tuesday night.
In a statement released late Tuesday night, New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Comey’s firing threatens “both critical investigations now underway, and the integrity and independence of the FBI, which is a critical partner to my office and to law enforcement agencies across the country.
With David M. Schwartz