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Trump Downplays Comey Controversy, Says Search for New FBI Director 'Moving Rapidly'


President Donald Trump awaits the arrival of Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan at the White House in Washington, May 15, 2017.

White House officials on Monday continued to deflect criticism of President Donald Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey and insisted the search to name his successor was moving quickly.

Six days after Trump fired Comey, the firestorm over the decision raged on in Washington, with Democrats ramping up their calls for a special prosecutor to look into possible Russia-Trump ties.

Although the extent of the political fallout remained unclear, the decision to fire Comey has become a distraction from the president's legislative agenda, which already was facing major roadblocks.

Before being fired, Comey was overseeing an investigation into alleged Russian hacking of the 2016 presidential election, as well as into possible collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign.

Many Democrats think the firing amounted to obstruction of justice, and Trump himself acknowledged that he had the Russia investigation in mind when he fired Comey.

President Donald Trump waves as he leaves after speaking at the 36th Annual National Peace Officers memorial service, May 15. 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
President Donald Trump waves as he leaves after speaking at the 36th Annual National Peace Officers memorial service, May 15. 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Not 'up to the job'

On Monday, White House officials again dismissed the controversy as a partisan attack.

"The president has every right to fire a person because he believed Director Comey lacked the judgment and the decision-making skills and wasn't up to the job," White House ppess secretary Sean Spicer said at his daily briefing.

For a second consecutive briefing, Spicer also refused to clarify a tweet from last week in which the president appeared to threaten Comey into silence.

"I was very clear. The president has nothing further on that," said Spicer.

Trump, meanwhile, spent much of Monday immersed in presidential ceremony, surrounding himself with police and laying a wreath during a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol to honor slain officers.

His only public mention of the firing of his FBI chief came during a meeting with the crown prince of Abu Dhabi. Trump said the process to name Comey's successor was "moving rapidly."

President Donald Trump welcomes Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to the White House in Washington, May 15, 2017.
President Donald Trump welcomes Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to the White House in Washington, May 15, 2017.

Democrats' stance

Some opposition Democratic senators said they would not confirm Comey's successor until a special prosecutor was appointed to carry out an independent investigation of Russian interference in the election, which was aimed at helping Trump defeat his Democratic opponent, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

But White House spokesman Spicer said there was "frankly no need for a special prosecutor," because the Federal Bureau of Investigation that Comey headed and committees in both the Senate and House of Representatives already were conducting probes of Russia's involvement.

The Trump administration has interviewed at least eight candidates for the top FBI job, and Trump has said a decision could come before he leaves Friday on his first overseas trip as president.

Even some of Trump's supporters have criticized the firing of Comey, especially after the White House offered changing explanations for the decision. They also were put off by an ominous tweet by the president that said the ousted FBI leader had better hope there were no "tapes" of their conversations.

'You can't be cute'

On Sunday, lawmakers urged Trump to turn over any tapes of conversations with Comey. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said the White House must "clear the air" about whether there are any taped conversations. "You can't be cute about tapes. If there are any tapes of this conversation, they need to be turned over," Graham told NBC's Meet the Press.

An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released Sunday found 29 percent of Americans approved of Comey's firing, while 78 percent supported an independent commission or special prosecutor to investigate Russia's interference in the election.

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