Veterans of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign have little love for James Comey, but they were quick to condemn President Donald Trump’s firing of the FBI director on Tuesday evening — as many renewed their calls for an independent investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
“Twilight zone. I was as disappointed and frustrated as anyone at how the email investigation was handled. But this terrifies me,” tweeted Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook. “If Members of Congress are patriots, they will call for a special prosecutor to take over this investigation and they will call for it now.”
Clinton herself has repeatedly said Comey’s October letter on the investigation into the private email arrangement she used as secretary of state helped cost her the election. Comey sent it to update lawmakers on developments in the email probe. Days later, he acknowledged there was no new information and again closed the investigation, but Clinton allies say the damage was already done in many voters’ minds.
Comey did not disclose until much later that the FBI had also been scrutinizing potential contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia. U.S. officials have said Russia was behind the hack and subsequent leaks of emails from Democrats including Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta.
The Trump administration indicated in documents released Tuesday that Comey’s firing was tied to his handling of the Clinton email probe, an explanation Podesta dismissed.
“I don’t think that on May 9, the president woke up and said, ‘It’s time fire Comey over Hillary Clinton’s email,'” Podesta told POLITICO. “It’s time for an independent investigation.”
None of Clinton’s ex-aides defended Comey after his firing Tuesday, but they instead said his abrupt dismissal could impede the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
“I’m not shedding any tears for Comey personally — he hurt FBI’s reputation — but I do worry whether we ever get to the bottom of Russia now,” wrote Brian Fallon, the Clinton campaign’s national press secretary and a former Justice Department spokesman. “The only thing that could do more to erode faith in independence of FBI than Comey staying is Comey being fired. This is 100% political.”
“The irony of Comey firing is that the man who helped make Trump president was the one guy who might well have also brought him down,” Fallon added.
Neither Clinton nor current members of her personal staff weighed in Tuesday night — and former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama also stayed away — but other Democrats sought to spotlight the potential impact on the ongoing Russian investigation.
“Trump firing Comey shows how frightened the Admin is over Russia investigation,” wrote Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, Clinton’s former running mate.
Others said firing Comey crossed a clear line, pushing Trump into territory previously occupied by President Richard Nixon, who in 1973 fired a special prosecutor looking into the Watergate scandal.
Christina Reynolds, a former Clinton communications aide, tweeted that Americans should pick up “One Man Against the World,” a book about Nixon.
“Dem response should be easy—call for independent investigation, remind voters of the last POTUS to fire someone while under investigation,” Reynolds said.
Annie Karni contributed to this report.