CAPITOL HILL - For weeks, most Republican lawmakers limited their comments about the crisis-plagued Trump administration to vague expressions of concern — if they commented at all. That common stance began to shift late Tuesday after media reports surfaced that former FBI director James Comey had written memos alleging President Donald Trump pressured him to halt an investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn's ties to Russia.
Hours later, one of the Republican Party's elder statesmen, Senator John McCain, raised eyebrows by comparing Trump's woes to those of former President Richard Nixon, who resigned in 1974.
"I think it's reaching the point where it [Trump controversies] is of Watergate size and scale," McCain said. "Every couple of days there is a new aspect of this really unhappy situation."
Democrats, meanwhile, are making an increasingly lengthy list of demands for a full accounting of Comey's firing, Trump's alleged meddling in the Russia probe, the intelligence the president shared last week with Russian officials, and any ties between Moscow and the president's inner circle.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is urging the White House to release any written or recorded records of Trump's conversations with Comey.
"The president says what Comey said was wrong. Prove it," Schumer said.
Democrats also want the White House to provide a transcript of the president's meeting with Russia's foreign minister and ambassador. Above all, they are demanding a special prosecutor to lead the investigation of Russia's meddling in last year's presidential election.
"We have learned, if the reporting is accurate, that the president is willing to directly interfere with an active investigation," Schumer said. "The only way out [solution] is a special prosecutor. It's the right thing to do."
A panel in the House of Representatives has demanded the FBI turn over Comey's memos. House Speaker Paul Ryan, on whose shoulders much of the burden of advancing an ambitious Republican agenda rests, is taking pains to remain above the fray.
"We need the facts," he said. "It is obvious there are some people out there who want to harm the president. Now is the time to gather all the pertinent information. Our job is to be responsible, sober and focused only on gathering the facts."
Representative Elijah Cummings is among Democrats who question Ryan's resolve — and that of Republicans more broadly — to unflinchingly uncover the truth.
"Speaker Ryan has shown he has zero, zero, zero appetite for any investigation of President Trump," Cummings said.
The man who could appoint a special prosecutor, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, will brief the entire Senate behind closed doors Thursday.