Rep. Wittman alone among local lawmakers in supporting Comey firing

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U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Westmoreland, is the only congressman representing Hampton Roads who supported President Donald Trump decision to fire FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday, as the agency continues to investigate possible connections between the Trump presidential campaign and Russia.

"This decision is the President's prerogative," Wittman said in a statement emailed to the Daily Press. "It was made following an investigation and recommendation of the Deputy Attorney General, who concluded that Mr. Comey could no longer function effectively as director. I trust that the recommendation was made in good faith and with the nation's best interest in mind."

Rep. Scott Taylor, R-Virginia Beach, Rep. Robert "Bobby" Scott, D-Newport News, and Democratic Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine all raised questions about the timing of the firing. Taylor said Democrats must stop "politicizing this firing as they were calling for Comey's dismissal as well and there has been zero evidence of collusion with Russia," but also said the decision is troubling.

"Director Comey made missteps, but if they were significant enough for his dismissal, it should have happened months ago," Taylor said in a statement issued Wednesday on his website.

The White House announced Comey's firing Tuesday afternoon as the FBI and congressional committees investigate whether Trump's campaign or its associates had any ties to Russia. Several news outlets, including the Associated Press, reported on Wednesday that Comey had recently asked the Justice Department for more resources to support that investigation. The Justice Department denied the reports.

In a scathing statement, Sen. Mark Warner — who is vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which is investigating the claims of Russian meddling — called the decision "shocking" and called for the appointment of a special prosecutor.

"The only way this Administration can begin to demonstrate a commitment to the rule of law, which has so far been sorely lacking, is to cooperate fully with the ongoing congressional investigations and to support the appointment of an independent special counsel," Warner said.

Warner also said the Senate committee must hear from Comey about the investigation.

Kaine, who likened the situation to President Richard Nixon's firing of a special prosecutor during the Watergate scandal, said the decision shows how "frightened" the Trump administration is over the Russia investigation.

"The White House decision to seek Attorney General (Jeff) Sessions' recommendation also raises questions about whether he has fully recused himself from the Russia investigation," Kaine's statement said. "This adds to a disturbing pattern by the White House to cover up the truth, which draws inescapable comparisons to the Nixon era."

Wittman said nothing about appointing a special prosecutor or a special committee and didn't respond Wednesday afternoon to a follow-up question on whether he thinks either is necessary.

Taylor said Trump must choose an FBI director who is an "independent and non-political leader" to gain "the public's confidence," or else a special prosecutor or committee must be established to head up the Russia investigation. Warner, Kaine and Scott joined other Washington Democrats in calling for doing that right now.

"The Department of Justice must immediately appoint a special prosecutor to ensure an independent and thorough investigation of these allegations," Scott said in a statement. "Additionally, Congress must establish a non-partisan commission to further investigate Russia's interference with the 2016 presidential election. These actions will safeguard any investigation from political interference by either the President or Congress."

Wittman said the committees involved in the investigation must continue to do their work, and "the FBI now needs a new leader that will command the respect of the American people and I hope the Senate moves swiftly with the nomination process."

Amin can be reached by phone at 757-247-4890.

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