President Donald Trump surprised Washington Tuesday night when he fired FBI Director James Comey, the man responsible for the investigation into whether Trump’s campaign team colluded with Russia.
Democrats sharply criticized Trump’s decision and raised parallels to Watergate-era firings, suggesting Comey was getting too close to the White House with the Russia probe.
Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr was among top Republican lawmakers who expressed concern. “I am troubled by the timing and reasoning of Director Comey’s termination.” Burr said in a statement.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer issued a statement saying Trump acted on recommendations of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
A source with knowledge of discussions told CNN’s Dana Bash the White House was surprised at the backlash. Since Democrats were saying precisely what Rosenstein said in explaining the grounds for Comey’s dismissal, the source said, the criticism was unexpected.
“This has nothing to do with Russia,” White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on “AC360”, just hours after news of Comey’s firing broke.
The backdrop of recriminations over alleged Russian interference in the 2016 elections comes as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is scheduled to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Wednesday.
Federal prosecutors have issued grand jury subpoenas to associates of former national security adviser Michael Flynn seeking business records, as part of the ongoing probe of Russian meddling in last year’s election, according to sources familiar with the matter.
CNN learned of the subpoenas hours before President Donald Trump fired FBI director James Comey.
The subpoenas represent the first sign of a significant escalation of activity in the FBI’s broader investigation begun last July into possible ties between Trump campaign associates and Russia.