Updated on May 10 at 2:57 p.m. ET
Top Senate Republicans are standing behind President Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, rejecting calls from Democrats and some in their own party for the Justice Department to appoint a special prosecutor to lead the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell lent the president crucial support on Wednesday morning, calling out Democrats for hypocrisy and saying a new independent inquiry would “impede” the bipartisan investigation of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “Partisan calls should not delay the considerable work of Chairman Burr and Vice Chairman Warner,” the Kentucky Republican said in a floor speech, referring to the leaders of the official Senate probe. “Too much is at stake.” He chided Democrats for criticizing the president after they earlier called for Comey’s ouster over his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, which many in the party believe helped to elect Trump as president. Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the second-ranking Republican, echoed McConnell, and Trump won similar support from Senator Charles Grassley, chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
McConnell made his comments moments after Minority Leader Charles Schumer renewed his call for a special prosecutor and demanded that Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the new deputy attorney, Rod Rosenstein, hold a private—and, if necessary, classified—briefing for the full Senate on the president’s decision. The White House has cited Rosenstein’s letter outlining Comey’s missteps as justification for the firing, and because Sessions has recused himself from the Russia investigation, it would be his decision to take the inquiry out of the FBI. Rosenstein, who was confirmed last month in a 94-6 vote, told the Senate during his confirmation hearing that he would appoint an independent counsel if he deemed it necessary. “If there was ever a time when circumstances warranted a special prosecutor, it is now,” Schumer said. Hours later, the New York Democrat returned to the Senate floor to revise his demand: It should not be Rosenstein or another political appointee, he said, but the highest-ranking career civil servant at the Justice Department that named a special prosecutor.