Iowa congressman defends claim president abused power in Comey firing

Loebsack wary of president's motives

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. - President Donald Trump doesn't shy away from controversy. 

You might say he runs right into it.

His decision to fire FBI Director James Comey last week is only the latest example.

That sent Democrats and Republicans into a frenzy on Capitol Hill. Democrats' calls for a special prosecutor got louder. Some Republicans question the timing of the decision given the ongoing investigation into the president's campaign ties to the Russian interference in last year's election.

Trying to get a straight answer from the White House for the reason Comey was fired only brought more confusion.

On Tuesday, the administration first blamed Comey for the way he handled the investigation in Hillary Clinton's email.

Let's be clear that Democrats didn't like it. At least one Democrat called for his resignation. A few others suggested it. But, Donald Trump himself in late October praised Comey for the way he handled it.

On Wednesday, the story changed. News broke that James Comey asked for more money to investigate the Russian interference with the election and that was the justification.

Then it changed again.The White House said the decision was made based on a recommendation from the Department of Justice.

And, believe it or not, it changed again. The president himself said later he was going to fire James Comey regardless of any recommendation.

He told NBC news anchor Lester Holt that the Trump - Russia investigation was a made up story.

The Washington Post reports the president did it because he was frustrated with the extent of the investigation.
An account it confirmed with more than 30 sources at the White House, the Justice Department, the FBI and Capitol Hill.

Donald Trump's not the first president to fire the FBI director.

Bill Clinton did it in 1993 when he dropped the hammer on then director William Sessions. The circumstances were a lot different.

A Justice Department report found Sessions guilty of different ethics violations that included billing the government for personal expenses.

Clinton asked him to resign when the concerns arose. Sessions refused and Clinton fired him months later when the report was complete.

President Clinton also held a news conference to announce the firing.

President Trump did not address the media. It was announced on television and James Comey got a termination letter after the fact. 

President Trump's decision to fire James Comey drew a strong rebuke from Iowa Congressman Dave Loebsack.

"His firing is an abuse of power and flies in the face of the rule of law." Loebsack said in a statement after the firing. "There is no question that we must now have an independent investigator handling the Russia investigation."

Congressman Dave Loebsack discussed the developments during an appearance on 4 the Record.

This story alone made it an extraordinary week in politics. The decision to fire James Comey is within the president's authority. Loebsack justified his claim that it was an abuse of power.

"There's no question it's within his authority. but I don't think there's reasons enough there for him to fire him," said Rep. Dave Loebsack, (D) Iowa. "Clearly the president was upset that apparently he was pushing forward on that investigation of potential ties between the president's campaign and Russian authorities, perhaps even Russian intelligence authorities and there's no question that that was a part of what happened here."

After all the story changes coming from the White House, it seems the administration is now in line with the reasoning for firing the FBI director is that it wants the Russian investigation to end sooner, as if to suggest this is a way to squash it.

"I think if in fact the investigation does get squashed, I think that'll only reinforce the notion that this was clearly an abuse of power," Loebsack said. "Where we go from here remains to be seen. you know, it seems as though the story is changing not only every day, but almost every few hours."

Weeks ago, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced he was recusing himself from the Russian investigation. Then, we heard he was involved in the recommendation to fire Comey. It's not clear whether the attorney general is staying out of it as promised.

"When it first came out and it wasn't apparent as it is now that this had something to do with the Russian investigation, I was willing to give Jeff Sessions the benefit of the doubt," Loebsack said. "Now we know that that is a big part of the reason why he was fired. President Trump himself said that. so I think clearly, in this case, Jeff Sessions appears to have violated his own pledge to recuse himself."

Senator Joni Ernst repeatedly made the point that Russia is not our friend during an appearance on 4 the Record a week earlier. Senator John McCain since commented that more shoes will drop regarding this story.

Loebsack explained what conversations he's having with Republicans on Capitol Hill about this and whether this is becoming partisan to the point it will be impossible to find the truth.

"There are a limited number of Republicans, like Senator McCain, who are speaking out on the issue, but not a lot," Loebsack said. "Behind the scenes, I can tell you I talk to a lot of folks every day on both sides of the aisle who have the same kinds of concerns. I guess it's just not quite to the point yet where many of those folks who talk to me privately are willing to go public about this and express their concerns. But, you know, we'll see what happens over the course of the next several days, maybe the next few weeks and some of them may be more willing to go on the record."

It's a situation where Congress could be tested to live up to its constitutional responsibility to be a check on the presidency.

"I don't have confidence that given the partisan nature of all this, on both sides of the aisle, that Congress can do this the way Congress ought to do it," Loebsack said. "Clearly in the House, we've seen Devin Nunes recuse himself from this part of his duties, the Russian investigation. That shouldn't have happened by any means. I have more confidence in the person that took his place, Congressman Conaway from Texas. but I'm not at all convinced that we can do the job that we need to do in the U.S. House and not be partisan, at least partly partisan about it. I have a little more confidence in the Senate. but I think if we have an independent special prosecutor, special council, I think that's the way to go and I think the American people would feel more confident about what ever comes out of this."

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