U.S. Senator Dick Durbin says the sudden firing of FBI Director James Comey indicates the agency’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election was “getting hotter” than President Trump would like.
Speaking to WBEZ’s Lisa Labuz, Durbin said his fellow Democrats in the Senate will push for a special prosecutor to oversee the federal probe. If they do not, Durbin said he is worried Comey’s dismissal could be the end of the FBI’s investigation.
“You know, that should be a call to arms for both political parties,” Durbin said. “To think that any foreign power thinks they can come in and influence the outcome of a presidential election in America? Those are fighting words.”
Durbin also discussed the White House’s changing justification for firing Comey and how it will affect the GOP’s plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
On the possible damage caused by foreign interference in American elections
Labuz: What is your biggest concern about the decision to fire Director Comey?
Durbin: The suppression or ending of the FBI investigation into Russian interference in our election. You know, that should be a call to arms for both political parties. To think that any foreign power thinks they can come in and influence the outcome of a presidential election in America? Those are fighting words. And, instead, we’ve seen a docile Republican Party just shrug their shoulders and say, “Boys will be boys,” and the president dismiss it as some sort of political charade. We need a real investigation because if we don’t, I can guarantee you the Russians will be back.
On the president’s changing justifications
Durbin: The president’s admission in the Lester Holt interview finally cleared the air. This notion that he fired Comey to defend the honor of Hillary Clinton is laughable — when you consider many of the things he said about “lock her up” and cheering on Comey when it looked like he was going to say something negative about Hillary Clinton. So, finally in that interview, the president just blurted it out. It was all about Russia. He decided it long ago.
Labuz: Have you seen any evidence that the firing was meant to stall or obstruct the investigation into Trump’s potential collusion with Russia?
Durbin: Oh the evidence is on its face. I mean, here you have the head of the investigation being summarily dismissed with no warning whatsoever. I mean, there were ways to do this. There’s an inspector general at the Department of Justice who is highly respected by both political parties. He could’ve done this in the right fashion, but the president did it abruptly. And it indicates to me that this investigation was getting a little hotter than he liked.
On the Democratic Party’s next steps
Durbin: The Democrats in the Senate, and I believe the House as well, are dedicated to a special prosecutor. What does it mean? Take it out of the hands of Attorney General [Jeff] Sessions, who’s recused, incidentally, from Russian involvement because of misrepresentations he made to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Take it out of the hands of [Deputy Attorney General Rod] Rosenstein, who I voted for just a few weeks ago — because of this suspicious memo he created justifying the firing of Comey.
The best thing now is to appoint a special prosecutor — someone outside the government, no political label, respected by all — to get to the bottom of it. And if it leads to people in high places, so be it. But if it doesn’t, I accept that as well.
On how Comey’s firing affects the prospects of the Republican health care bill
Durbin: I don’t think it makes it any easier for the Republicans and for the credibility of Donald Trump. The fact is his approval numbers are the lowest of any new president in modern history. Period. And so when the Republicans have to decide whether to take the heat for a very flawed approach to changing our health care system, they look and see, “Well, what’s the payback? At least, am I standing by a popular president?”
The answer is no.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. Press the ‘play’ button above to hear the entire segment.