GOP Sen. Rounds: Comey firing has ‘clearly’ drawn attention to Russia probe

Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., said Thursday that if President Trump had, in fact, fired FBI Director James Comey in an effort to impede the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, the plan has certainly backfired.

In an interview with Yahoo News and Finance Anchor Bianna Golodryga, Rounds said that between the questionable timing of Comey’s firing and Trump’s bizarre reference to the Russia investigation in his termination letter, “this clearly has done nothing but draw attention to it.”

Rounds was among the Republicans in Congress who raised questions about the timing of Comey’s termination Tuesday, but he dismissed calls by many Democrats to appoint an independent prosecutor or independent commission to take over the Russia investigation, insisting that the Senate intelligence committee is capable of “getting to the bottom of it.”

“Right now things are moving the way we hoped they would,” he said.

Rounds spoke to Golodryga shortly after Senate intelligence committee members heard from acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe. Contrary to White House claims that FBI agents had lost faith in their former leader, McCabe stated Thursday that he has “the highest respect for [Comey’s] considerable abilities and his integrity,” and that the ousted director enjoyed “broad support within the FBI and still does to this day.”

Asked whether such comments could cost McCabe his current post, given reports that Trump’s frustration over Comey’s recent Russia testimony had contributed to his firing, Rounds said he’d be “very surprised” if Trump were to replace the new acting FBI chief. (Yahoo News reported Wednesday that the Justice Department was already interviewing candidates to be the new “interim” director.)

However, he admitted, if “dramatic changes like that did occur, there’s a lot of us that would reconsider exactly what is going on.”

The White House’s official reason for firing Comey was how he handled the probe of Hillary Clinton’s email server during the campaign. In his letter firing Comey, Trump thanked him for telling him that he was not under investigation, though it’s not known whether Comey ever did so. The reference was to the FBI’s probe into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and whether any Trump associates were involved in the effort.

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