WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump personally called Sen. Chuck Grassley this week and told the Iowa Republican that he was the first senator to hear the news: Trump was canning FBI Director James Comey.
Grassley, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, described that phone call for reporters Wednesday as he reiterated his support for the firing.
“Even Democrats who are crying foul now were complaining about Comey’s actions last year,” Grassley said. “Some even called for him to be removed.”
Not everyone is so sanguine about the move.
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., has said the timing of the firing is “very troubling” as the country confronts a crisis in public trust.
Sasse is chairman of the Judiciary Committee’s oversight subcommittee, which could hold hearings into the firing.
But Sasse has not yet indicated that he’ll go down that road.
Rather, he said that he would reach out to the deputy attorney general for “clarity on his rationale for recommending this action.”
Other Nebraska and western Iowa lawmakers have been keeping their heads down on the topic, with none issuing press releases on the matter.
In an interview, Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., said he personally liked Comey but thought the director had lost credibility. “The Democrats did not have faith in him. I know some of the Republicans didn’t have faith in him.”
Bacon added that he does think the administration should have handled the notification better so Comey did not learn of the firing from television reports.
In response to World-Herald inquiries, a few other Midlands lawmakers provided written statements through aides.
» “Looking past the controversial investigations and public comments, I think part of the Comey story is that Comey became the story,” said Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb.
» Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., said he wants to know more. “I’m anxious to get more information as it becomes available. In the meantime, we need cooler heads to prevail and not get carried away with theories before we have the facts.”
» Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb.: “Director Comey was involved in a number of political controversies that undermined his credibility for the past year. The FBI and the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee are continuing to investigate Russia’s role in the election.”
» Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, has said the director of the FBI serves at the pleasure of the president and therefore the decision was up to Trump.
None of the Iowa and Nebraska Republicans so far has joined calls for a special prosecutor into Russian interference in the election. Proponents say it is the only way the public will have faith that the investigation is being conducted independent of White House political influence.
Grassley specifically rejected those calls, however, saying that a special prosecutor would mean the public doesn’t get any information on the investigation unless that person brings a case. He said it’s better to leave the matter in the hands of various congressional committees.
Asked if he was confident Comey’s firing had nothing to do with the Russia investigation, Grassley said, “As of now, yes.”