Top Republican rejects call for special investigator
Democrats unanimous in call for special prosecutor to look at Russian interference
President Donald Trump talks about his firing of FBI director James Comey to reporters while meeting with former secretary of state Henry Kissinger in the Oval Office. Photograph: Doug Mills
Senior Republican Mitch McConnell has rejected calls by Democrats for a special counsel to be appointed to investigate Russian interference in last year’s US election, taking the heat off US president Donald Trump, who is facing accusations of a cover-up following his shock decision to fire FBI director James Comey.
Despite a number of Republicans publicly criticising Mr Trump’s move to dismiss the FBI chief in the hours following the announcement, the GOP party mainly backed the president on Wednesday.
“Today we’ll no doubt hear calls for a new investigation, which could only serve to impede the current work being done,” the most senior Republican in the Senate said on the chamber floor.
He was backed by prominent Republican Lindsey Graham, while Richard Burr, the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, rowed back slightly on earlier criticism, stating that Mr Comey’s dismissal, while “troubling”, would not impede the work of the committee.
With Republicans controlling both Houses of Congress, Republican support is necessary to appoint a special prosecutor.
Democrats have been virtually unanimous in their call for a special prosecutor to be appointed to investigate Russian interference in the US election and alleged links between the Trump election campaign team and the Kremlin.
Senator Elizabeth Warren said a special prosecutor needed to be appointed whom “Trump cannot fire”.
With attention now turning to Mr Comey’s successor as the head of the FBI, the White House said the “first step” in choosing a replacement was now under way.
“There are several individuals being considered, and the first step will be selecting the interim director...As of today the department of justice is handling the first step,” said deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who replaced press secretary Sean Spicer at the White House press briefing.
She added that Mr Trump had been considering firing Mr Comey since he took office, noting that there had been an “erosion of confidence” in Mr Comey.
“I think that Director Comey has shown in the last several months and the last year a lot of missteps and mistakes...Frankly I think it’s startling that Democrats aren’t celebrating this.”
She said Mr Trump was due to meet the acting FBI director Andrew Mc Cabe om Wednesday , and may visit the bureau’s headquarters, noting that morale was low in the organisation.
Mr Comey, who learned of his dismissal through a TV report while he was speaking at an FBI event in Los Angeles on Tuesday, has not yet publicly commented on the developments that has seen him lose his job just three years into a 10-year term.
While the Senate Intelligence Committee has invited Mr Comey to testify in a closed session next Tuesday, it is not clear if he will participate.
Mr Trump took to twitter on Wednesday morning to chastise individual Democrats for their stance on the Comey dismissal.
“Cryin’ Chuck Schumer stated recently, ‘I do not have confidence in him (James Comey) any longer.’ Then acts so indignant. #draintheswamp,” he tweeted, referring to senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, who lambasted Mr Trump on Tuesday evening for dismissing Mr Comey.