Bipartisan desire on Capitol Hill for more answers on Comey memos
As Democrats float the prospect of impeaching Donald Trump, some members of the president’s party are cautioning against a rush to judgment based on the latest anonymously sourced reporting.
The New York Times reported Tuesday that former FBI Director James Comey kept memos on his interactions with President Trump, including one alleging that Trump urged him to call off the investigation of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
If true, Democrats and even a few Republicans have said Trump’s actions could be considered an attempt to obstruct justice and an impeachable offense.
The Comey memos came to light the day after the Washington Post reported that Trump revealed classified information to Russian officials during a White House meeting last week.
GOP reactions to these reports have ranged from moderate concern to exasperation, but some House Republicans interviewed Wednesday said not enough is known about the incidents to justify the sharpening of pitchforks.
“Let’s let the facts fall and find out what happened,” said Rep. Brian Babin, R-Texas. “There may be some bad blood there. Mr. Comey was relieved of his job, and I don’t know, I’m not going to make any hard and fast decision or conclusion until we see the facts. ”
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., also called for the investigation to follow facts rather than rumors and allegations.
“What I don’t want to do is grasp on every anonymous report or every leaked piece of information without knowing whether or not it’s true,” he said.
They both challenged Democrats’ calls for an independent investigation or a special prosecutor to probe the Trump White House.
“We had eight years of President Obama and his administration and some of the same things were happening back then in that administration that they’re claiming are happening in the Trump administration,” Babin claimed. “Where was the mainstream media then? Where were these Democrats that are raising so much sand?”
Several bipartisan congressional committees are conducting investigations involving Russian interference in the 2016 election and other issues potentially related to Trump and his staff. Gaetz feels that is sufficient as long as those efforts have not been impeded.
“Let’s start by allowing the existing investigations to proceed,” he said.
Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Ill., also said the demands for a special prosecutor or independent commission are premature.
“We got to let the process play out here and see what happens,” he said.
He noted that the House Oversight Committee wants Comey to testify at a hearing next week and committees are seeking copies of the former director’s memos.
“An allegation like this, we have to find out what occurred, how did that occur,” he said.
Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., said appointing a special prosecutor while the FBI, House and Senate are already investigating could create more complications, but he would not completely rule it out.
“We want to get to the bottom of this as soon as we can,” he said. “We don’t want different groups tripping over each other.”
Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., also wants more information before reaching any conclusions about Trump’s conduct, but he believes a truly independent investigation is necessary to take the politics out of it.
“Our standing in the world, our democratic institutions could potentially be at risk here,” he said.
According to Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., both an independent commission and an independent prosecutor may be what it takes for the American people to have confidence in the results of the probe.
“No one in our country is above the law, including the president of the United States,” he said.
However, Babin accused Trump’s critics of attempting to derail the democratically-elected president rather than accepting the consequences of November’s vote.
“We have to give democracy a chance to work here instead of trying to stop and obstruct at every turn,” he said.
Rep Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., said some in Washington are too quick to draw parallels between every scandal and Watergate, but the circumstances surrounding the Comey memos are still too unclear to evaluate their importance.
“Maybe this gets to be Watergate,” he said. “I doubt it.”
Despite Trump’s latest troubles, many Republicans on Capitol Hill remain supportive of the president.
“I’m confident in the president,” Gaetz said. “I simply want to make sure that the firing of James Comey and other events that have occurred don’t impair the work of the people who are actually on the ground doing investigations.”
Babin acknowledged that some of Trump’s words and tweets are problematic, but “this is the way this man operates.” He worries that the focus on the missteps obscures the administration’s accomplishments.
“I think we’re losing sight of how effective this man is as a president,” he said.
But Schrader argued Trump’s recent behavior suggests he does not comprehend what being president really means.
“I’m not sure this particular president understands the gravity of the job he has,” he said.
Republicans fear that the constant news eruptions from the Trump White House could distract from the long list of issues they promised voters they would address in this congressional session.
“My hope is that the White House could be a little more disciplined,” LaHood said.
Babin remains optimistic about what the GOP majority can accomplish if they can put some of these controversies behind them.
“We just need to get on with the agenda,” he said. “We need to get on with making America great again.”