For Republicans, the situation is trickier. The balance between ensuring an objective analysis of the role Russia may have played in the 2016 race and protecting a Republican president has proved to be politically complicated for many on the right, who usually default to the latter position. This is to some extent a function of Trump’s having had many exceptional moments in his candidacy and presidency so far, from insults to emoluments. Many Republicans are certainly used to being asked their position on Trump and finding themselves coming to his defense.
The Comey firing is broadly different. It’s a president dismissing someone actively investigating his team — if not the president himself — as Trump took great pains to note in his letter outlining the dismissal. Does that mean that the reaction from Republicans will similarly be different?
As responses from prominent Republicans come in, we’ll rank them on a five-part scale, as below. Most quotes are from our collection of responses.
None so far.
Sen. Jeff Flake (Ariz.). Score: -50. “I’ve spent the last several hours trying to find an acceptable rationale for the timing of Comey’s firing. I just can’t do it.”
Rep. Barbara Comstock (Va.). Score: -45. “I can’t defend or explain tonight’s actions or timing of the firing of FBI Director James Comey. The FBI investigation into the Russian impact on the 2016 election must continue.”
Sen. John McCain (Ariz.). Score: -35. “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 B. Comey from office. James B. Comey is a man of honor and integrity, and he has led the FBI well in extraordinary circumstances.”
Rep. Carlos Curbelo (Fla.). Score: -30. “Today’s extraordinary decision raises many questions all of which must be answered. … It is critical that the FBI can continue all of its pending work with independence and integrity – especially the investigation into the Russian government’s efforts to influence our last election and undermine American democracy. Today I reiterate the need for Congress to establish a Select Committee with full investigatory powers to thoroughly examine this matter.”
Rep. Justin Amash (Mich.). Score: -25. “My staff and I are reviewing legislation to establish an independent commission on Russia. The second paragraph of this letter is bizarre.”
Sen. Ben Sasse (Neb.). Score: -22.Regardless of how you think Director Comey handled the unprecedented complexities of the 2016 election cycle, the timing of this firing is very troubling. … As the chairman of the Judiciary Committee’s Oversight Subcommittee, I have reached out to the Deputy Attorney General for clarity on his rationale for recommending this action.”
Sen. James Lankford (Okla.). Score: -20. “The issues that our law enforcement, intelligence community and congressional committees deal with each day are very sensitive and have life or death implications. Director Comey has been the public face representing thousands of committed law enforcement officers and civil servants within the intelligence community. In the days ahead, the American people need clarity and deserve an explanation for his immediate firing.”
Sen. Richard Burr (N.C.). Score: -10. “I am troubled by the timing and reasoning of Director Comey’s termination. I have found Director Comey to be a public servant of the highest order, and his dismissal further confuses an already difficult investigation by the Committee. In my interactions with the Director and with the Bureau under his leadership, he and the FBI have always been straightforward with our Committee.”
Rep. Trey Gowdy (S.C.). Score: +15. “I am thankful for his service to our country and am hopeful our President will select an independent-minded person to serve as the head of our nation’s premier law enforcement agency. Our justice system is the foundation of our republic. It must be both respected and fully worthy of our respect.”
Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.). Score: +20. “While the case for removal of Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey laid out by Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein was thorough, his removal at this particular time will raise questions. It is essential that ongoing investigations are fulsome and free of political interference until their completion, and it is imperative that President Trump nominate a well-respected and qualified individual to lead the bureau at this critical time.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.). Score: +25. “Once the Senate receives a nomination, we look forward to a full, fair and timely confirmation process to fill the Director position.”
Sen. Thom Tillis (N.C.). Score: +25. “While Director Comey has faced criticism from both Republican and Democratic elected officials, it is my belief he attempted to lead the FBI to the best of his ability given the difficult circumstances before him and the hyperpartisan political climate that exists in Washington.”
Rep. Ron DeSantis (Fla.). Score: +30. “President Trump made the right decision to relieve FBI Director James B. Comey of his duties.”
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.). Score: +40. “Given the recent controversies surrounding the director, I believe a fresh start will serve the FBI and the nation well. I encourage the President to select the most qualified professional available who will serve our nation’s interests.”
Rep. Jim Banks (Ind.). Score: +45. “Director Comey lost the trust of both Rs and Ds. Our next FBI Director must be nonpartisan and widely respected.”
Sen. Susan Collins (Maine). Score: +60. “The president did not fire the entire FBI. He fired the director of the FBI. And any suggestion that this is somehow going to stop the FBI’s investigation of the attempts by the Russians to influence the elections last fall is really patently absurd.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.). Score: +70. “We wish him the best. … It’s a decision the president’s made and we’ll go from here.”
Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.). Score: +80. “Many, including myself, have questioned his actions more than once over the past year. I believe new leadership at the FBI will restore confidence in the organization and among the people who do the hard work to carry out its mission.”
Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa). Score: +85. “The FBI Director serves at the pleasure of the president. Under these circumstances, President Trump accepted the recommendation of the Justice Department that the Director lacked the confidence needed to carry out his important duties.”
Sen. John Cornyn (Texas). Score: +95. “Ds were against Comey before they were for him.”