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Congressional Officials: Comey Sought More Resources for Russia Probe Before Firing

FILE - FBI Director James Comey testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 3, 2017, before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing: "Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation."

U.S. congressional officials say ousted FBI Director James Comey had in the days before his firing asked for more resources for his investigation into Russia’s involvement in last year’s U.S. election and possible links between Russia and President Donald Trump’s campaign.

The officials said the request was made to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who along with Attorney General Jeff Sessions outlined in memos Tuesday the administration’s reasons for ousting Comey.

The Department of Justice denied there was such a request. The outcome and what effect, if any, a request had on Trump’s decision to fire Comey are not clear.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

The reasons for Comey’s dismissal were outlined in two letters written by Sessions and Rosenstein. They essentially accused Comey of taking the law into his own hands.

The Washington Post, citing an anonymous source, reported early Thursday that Rosenstein threatened to resign when he found out the White House was portraying him as the primary person behind the firing of Comey and that the president was merely following his recommendation.

Critics of the FBI director’s dismissal say it raises questions about the agency’s inquiry.

Career FBI investigators and others at the Justice Department are “going to be very interested in seeing that this moves forward to the extent that there’s evidence there of any wrongdoing, any connection with Russian involvement,” former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez told VOA. “I would call it a dumb move by the president if he thinks he’s going to stop that investigation.”

Calls for special prosecutor

Comey’s firing has brought demands for a special prosecutor to handle the Russia investigation, especially from Senate Democrats. But House Speaker Paul Ryan and other Republican leaders are rejecting those calls.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Ryan told Fox News Wednesday. He added that the ongoing investigations by the FBI and the intelligence committees in the House and Senate “are the way to go.”

Ryan also expressed support for the reasoning Trump laid out for firing Comey, saying Republicans, Democrats and the Justice Department had all lost confidence in the FBI chief.

Trump made that case earlier in the day on Twitter, writing that Comey had lost the confidence of “everyone in Washington.” And in a comment in the Oval Office, Trump said of Comey: “He wasn’t doing a good job. Very simply.”

The FBI director committed “atrocities in circumventing the chain of command in the Department of Justice,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the principal deputy White House press secretary, told reporters Wednesday. “Any person of legal mind and authority knows what a big deal that is.”

Trump has not nominated a replacement to lead the FBI, who will need to be confirmed by the Senate. But he did say in another Twitter message Wednesday that Comey “will be replaced by someone who will do a far better job, bringing back the spirit and prestige of the FBI.”

The only other FBI director to be fired was William Sessions, who was dismissed by President Bill Clinton in 1993. Clinton named a replacement the next day.

Protesters gather to rally against U.S. President Donald Trump's firing of Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey, outside the White House in Washington, May 10, 2017.
Protesters gather to rally against U.S. President Donald Trump's firing of Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey, outside the White House in Washington, May 10, 2017.


Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee called Trump’s action “Nixonian,” a reference to President Richard Nixon’s firing of officials investigating him during the Watergate scandal in the early 1970s.

On the Senate floor, Dick Durbin, a Democrat who is a member of the Judiciary Committee, said any attempt to halt or undermine the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the presidential campaign “would raise grave constitutional issues.”

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said she was “incredulous” over Trump’s firing of Comey, and that the appropriateness and timing of Comey’s dismissal could implicate the administration and called for the matter to be addressed.

The Senate intelligence committee Wednesday subpoenaed Mike Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser. The subpoena seeks documents from Flynn related to the panel’s investigation into Russia’s meddling in the U.S. election.

Flynn’s attorney, Robert Kelner, declined to comment late Wednesday.

In the House, Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the oversight and government reform committee, wrote a letter Wednesday to the FBI’s inspector general asking that a review of the agency’s actions in relation to the election be expanded to include an investigation of Comey’s dismissal.

Congressman Justin Amash, a Republican member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said Tuesday he is “reviewing legislation to establish an independent commission on Russia.”

Amash also termed as “bizarre” Trump’s reference in the termination letter to Comey that the FBI director had assured the president repeatedly that the U.S. leader himself was not under investigation.

‘It is done’

Comey has not publicly addressed his firing, but did send a letter, which was obtained by CNN, to friends and FBI agents.

In the statement, Comey said he did not plan to dwell on Trump’s decision to fire him or the “way it was executed.”

“I have long believed that a president can fire an FBI director for any reason, or for no reason at all,” he wrote. “... It is done and I will be fine.”

He added that he would miss the FBI’s mission “deeply.”

VOA’s Pete Heinlein contributed to this report.