Many Republicans shy away from independent commission on Trump-Russia ties after Comey's firing

Republicans are split on Trump's move to fire the FBI Director.

ByRYAN STRUYK and ARLETTE SAENZ
May 10, 2017, 5:10 PM

— -- Reactions from Republicans in Congress to President Trump's decision to fire FBI Director James Comey are falling into three major groups, with many criticizing the move but stopping short of calling for an independent commission, according to dozens of statements and interviews collected by ABC News.

A handful of GOP lawmakers has called for an independent panel to investigate the Trump administration's ties to Russia, but a larger number of Republicans on Capitol Hill are criticizing the timing of Comey's removal without saying a commission should weigh in.

Still others are defending President Trump's decision and dismissing concerns over the decision.

Democrats have pressed for a special prosecutor who could bring criminal charges if any criminal wrongdoing is discovered, something an independent commission or select committee can't do. So far, no Republicans are calling for a special prosecutor.

Many of the Republicans have broken with their typical ranks, with some Trump critics coming to his defense and other mainline conservatives expressing pointed concern.

Here is how the Republicans are reacting to the news of the last 24 hours:

Lawmakers calling for a special independent commission

Sen. John McCain is the most prominent Republican currently calling for an independent panel to investigate. "The president's decision to remove the FBI Director only confirms the need and the urgency of such a committee," McCain, who had already called for an independent panel prior to Comey's firing, said in a statement.

Two House members Justin Amash, R-MI, and Carlos Curbelo, R-FL, have also called for one. Amash tweeted that he is "reviewing legislation" to create one and Curbelo called the decision "extraordinary" and "raises many questions."

"Today I reiterate the need for Congress to establish a Select Committee with full investigatory powers to thoroughly examine this matter," Curbelo said. Prior to Comey's firing, Rep. Darrell Issa appeared to endorse the idea, saying, "we need an independent review by a credible third party."

When asked about the possibility of an independent prosecutor, one Republican Senator -- Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia -- told ABC's Mary Bruce she's "looking at that seriously."

Lawmakers criticizing the decision but not calling for a special independent commission

Several Republicans have expressed concern for the timing of Trump's move but have stopped short of calling for an independent panel. The most prominent senator in this group is Richard Burr, who leads the Senate Intelligence Committee and says he was "troubled by the timing and reasoning" and "his dismissal further confuses an already difficult investigation."

"The timing of it and the reasoning of it make no sense to me," Burr said.

The group includes some regular Trump critics as well as more mainline conservatives. Sen. Rob Portman said Trump "should provide a fuller explanation." Sen. Ben Sasse said "the timing of this firing is very troubling," while Sen. Lisa Murkowski called the timing a "serious cause for concern."

Sen. James Lankford said "the American people need clarity and deserve an explanation," while Sen. Bob Corker said "his removal at this particular time will raise questions," and Sen. Lamar Alexander questioned "the timing." Even Ohio Gov. John Kasich said he was "extremely troubled by the circumstances surrounding" the firing.

Lawmakers defending President Trump's decision

Sen. Lindsey Graham offered up a pointed defense of Trump's decision: "This is not Watergate ... I'm not concerned ... I know our system is bigger than Mr. Comey ... I don't believe firing James Comey is a get-out-of-jail-free card for the Trump campaign."

Sen. Rand Paul said: "It couldn't have happened soon enough. I lost confidence in Comey," and tweeted about "hypocrisy and fake outrage."

Moderate Sen. Susan Collins also defended Trump. "Any suggestion that today’s announcement is somehow an effort to stop the FBI's investigation of Russia’s attempt to influence the election last fall is misplaced. The President did not fire the entire FBI; he fired the director. I have every confidence that the FBI will continue to pursue its investigation."

Sens. Ted Cruz and Chuck Grassley said Comey had lost the confidence of the American people and didn't criticize Trump's decision. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell dismissed calls for a special investigation this morning, saying it "could only serve to impede the current work being done."

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