Sen. Reed: Comey firing ‘very, very reminiscent’ of Nixon during Watergate

U.S. Sen Jack Reed and former FBI Director James Comey (AP Photos)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Democratic U.S. Sen. Jack Reed decried President Trump’s abrupt firing of FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday, saying a special prosecutor should be appointed immediately to independently complete the investigation of Trump and Russia.

“It is, unfortunately, very, very reminiscent of President Nixon’s attempts to cut off an investigation into his administration,” Reed told Eyewitness News, referring to the infamous “Saturday Night Massacre” in 1973, when the former president fired officials investigating the Watergate scandal.

Reed said he learned of Comey’s firing from news reports, and described the announcement as “shocking and disturbing.” He said he is “deeply suspicious” of U.S. Justice Department leaders’ claims that the decision was due to how Comey handled the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, saying Trump “welcomed” Comey into his administration just a few months ago.

“I think it’s really aimed at the Russia investigation,” Reed said.

In a letter to Comey released by the White House, Trump said: “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.”

Trump had criticized Comey on Twitter just last week, calling him “the best thing that ever happened to Hillary Clinton in that he gave her a free pass for many bad deeds!”

The Department of Justice had acknowledged earlier in the day that Comey, who was only part way through a 10-year term, spoke inaccurately about the Clinton email probe during recent congressional testimony.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse also spoke out against Trump’s move in a statement Tuesday night, saying it “raises massive questions” and lawmakers “should get to the bottom of it.”

Reed and Whitehouse are both involved in congressional investigations into Trump and Russia, on the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, respectively.

Whitehouse’s partner on the Judiciary subcommittee investigation, Republican Lindsey Graham, expressed support for Trump’s decision. “Given the recent controversies surrounding the Director, I believe a fresh start will serve the FBI and the nation well,” Graham said.

Trump allies have been quick to point out that many Democrats strongly criticized Comey in the past for his public disclosures about the Clinton probe. Whitehouse himself wrote last fall, “If you can’t make your case, as a prosecutor you shut up and move on.”

State Rep. Bobby Nardolillo, a Republican who plans to run against Whitehouse for U.S. Senate next year, offered his reaction on Twitter:

Reed said progress on the Intelligence Committee investigation has been “slow.” The committee’s chairman, Republican Richard Burr, said Tuesday he was “troubled by the timing and the reasoning of Jim Comey’s termination.” Reed’s GOP counterpart on the Armed Services Committee, John McCain, said Congress should form a special select committee to look into Russia’s election meddling.

Reed has been demanding for months that a special prosecutor take over the probe into Trump and Russia, which Attorney General Jeff Sessions has already recused himself from. He said Comey’s termination only reinforced his thinking.

“It could be months before there’s a new director – if and when the president decides to appoint one – and in the interim I think there’s going to be a lot of uncertainty in the FBI,” he said.

Democratic Congressman David Cicilline called on Congress to “establish an independent, bipartisan commission outside Donald Trump’s Justice Department to uncover the truth,” while Democratic Congressman Jim Langevin described Comey’s firing as “deeply disturbing” and urged a special prosecutor.

Democratic Congressman Joe Kennedy III also weighed on Twitter:

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook