Illinois Democrats want independent probe following Comey firing; Republicans want answers

Democratic lawmakers from Illinois joined in their party's widespread condemnation of President Donald Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey, and some state Republican members of Congress said they were looking for more answers after the surprise move.

U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley of Chicago called Comey's dismissal a "brazen decision taken straight out of the Nixon playbook," referring to former President Richard Nixon's 1973 firing of Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor probing his conduct during Watergate. Quigley is on the House Intelligence Committee, which is looking into whether Trump's associates coordinated with Russians to tamper with the presidential election.

"It is no coincidence that Director Comey was fired shortly after confirming the existence of the FBI's investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials," Quigley said.

Quigley and other Illinois Democrats called for a special prosecutor to pick up the FBI's probe into Trump's campaign. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, an Evanston Democrat, said "for the sake of our democracy and national integrity, we must get to the bottom of this mess."

Illinois Republicans in Congress didn't make the same calls, but they didn't fully embrace Trump's move, either, reflecting the difficult political positions in which the president has sometimes put members of his own party.

Rep. Darin LaHood, a Peoria Republican and a former assistant U.S. attorney, said that he was surprised by Comey's ouster and that he has admired him for his "integrity, judgment and independence." But he wanted to know more about the rationale for the dismissal.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Channahon Republican, said on Facebook that "we need a transparent investigation that we, the American people, can all trust." And Rep. Rodney Davis, a Taylorville Republican, said he was concerned by Comey's dismissal but believes the Trump administration will be "transparent" and "lay out its case ... in the coming days."

Rep. Peter Roskam, a Wheaton Republican, said that he was surprised by the timing of Comey's firing but that he "had become a lightning rod for criticism" as "Republicans and especially Democrats had sadly lost confidence in his ability to lead the FBI."

"The FBI director must enjoy the full confidence of the American people to effectively administer justice," he said.

A new FBI director would have to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, where Illinois' two Democratic members had sharp criticisms for Trump.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, speaking Wednesday from the Senate floor, assailed photos released by the Russian government showing Trump meeting in the Oval Office on Wednesday with Russia's foreign minister and its ambassador to the U.S.

"The warm smiles and hearty handshakes that President Trump gave to these Russian officials stands in sharp contrast" to the way that the White House treated Comey, former acting Attorney General Sally Yates and former New York-based U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, Durbin said.

He said the three U.S. officials all were leading probes "that appeared to be getting close to the president and his inner circle." "Any attempt to stop or undermine this FBI investigation would raise grave constitutional issues," he said.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth on Wednesday said she was "deeply concerned" that the White House is being "very opaque" about Comey's firing in the middle of an important investigation, for which he reportedly sought additional money and resources last week.

kskiba@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @KatherineSkiba

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
45°