U.S. President Donald Trump is defending his move to fire FBI Director James Comey, saying “he wasn’t doing a good job. Very simply.”
Trump made the comment Wednesday in the Oval Office, sitting alongside former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
Earlier, on the Twitter social media platform, the president contended that Comey had lost the confidence of “everyone in Washington, Republican and Democrat alike.”
In a series of Wednesday morning tweets, Trump said Comey “will be replaced by someone who will do a far better job, bringing back the spirit and prestige of the FBI.”
Vice President Mike Pence defended the president’s move Wednesay, saying Trump “made the right decision at the right time” when he fired Comey.
Critics of the move to dismiss Comey have said it raises questions about the FBI’s probe into Russian meddling in the November presidential election and possible collusion between Trump campaign aides and Russian interests.
Career FBI investigators and others at the Justice Department are “going to be very interested in seeing that this moves forward to the extent that there’s evidence there of any wrongdoing — any connection with Russian involvement,” former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez told VOA. “I would call it a dumb move by the president if he thinks he’s going to stop that investigation.”
Trump’s action is “incredulous,” Senator Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said on Wednesday.
The California senator said the appropriateness and timing of the Comey’s dismissal could implicate the administration and called for the matter to be addressed.
Trump, in a blunt letter to Comey Tuesday, told him: “You are hereby terminated and removed from office, effective immediately.” The president added that Comey “is not able to effectively lead the bureau.”
The administration’s reasons for Comey’s removal were outlined in two separate letters written by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his deputy, Rod Rosenstein.
Comey “made serious mistakes” handling the conclusion of the investigation of emails of Trump’s general election opponent Hillary Clinton, wrote Rosenstein, accusing the FBI director of usurping the attorney general’s authority when Comey concluded there should be no prosecution of the former secretary of state.
It is not clear why Trump took the action Tuesday concerning events that occurred months before he won last November’s presidential election.
A Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Lindsey Graham, said “given the recent controversies surrounding the director, I believe a fresh start will serve the FBI and the nation well.”
But for some other Republican members of Congress the president’s action caused a breach.
Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said he is “troubled by the timing and reasoning” of the Comey firing. He called the dismissal “a loss for the bureau and the nation.”
John McCain, a Republican who sits on the Homeland Security and Government Affairs committee, said in a statement that “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.”
Another Republican senator, Jeff Flake, on the Twitter social media network said he “had spent the last several hours trying to find an acceptable rationale for the timing of Comey’s firing. I just can’t do it.”
Congressman Justin Amash, a Republican member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said on Twitter he is “reviewing legislation to establish an independent commission on Russia” and termed “bizarre” Trump’s reference in the termination letter to Comey noting the FBI director had assured the president repeatedly he was not under investigation.
Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee called Trump’s action “Nixonian” — a reference to President Richard Nixon’s firing of officials investigating him during the Watergate scandal in the early 1970s.
Democratic Party senators on Wednesday called for appointment of a special prosecutor to continue the Justice Department’s investigation into alleged ties between Trump’s presidential campaign last year and Russia.
On the Senate floor, Dick Durbin, a Democrat who is a member of the Judiciary Committee, said any attempt to halt or undermine the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the presidential campaign “would raise grave constitutional issues.”
WATCH: Durbin on Comey firing
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said he told Trump “you’re making a very big mistake” by firing Comey, amid various investigations connected to the president’s 2016 campaign.
WATCH: Schumer on Comey firing
“Why now?” added Schumer. “Are people going to suspect coverup? Absolutely.”
“The Rosenstein memorandum is based on long-standing principles governing criminal investigations, but the timing – that is so problematic and concerning,” George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley told VOA.
Hours after Comey’s firing, CNN reported that grand jury subpoenas had recently been issued in the FBI’s Russia probe seeking business records from associates of Michael Flynn, the national security advisor Trump fired for lying to the vice president about the nature of his communications with Russian officials.
The subpoenas would be the first known significant escalation of activity in the government investigation into possible connections between the associates of the Trump presidential campaign and Russia.