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Democrats Question Timing Of James Comey's Dismissal From FBI


And NPR's Ron Elving is with us now. And Ron, talking about what we just heard from Jennifer Palmieri, you know, Democrats are in such an interesting position right now, right? I mean, this is somebody that they were very critical of for so long for the handling of the Clinton email investigation but yet, you know, who they figured was in some ways on their side when it came to the Russian investigation. And they were in a strange position today, no?

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Yes, indeed they were. And the question, of course, that they're all asking is quite a simple one. Why now? Why is James Comey's behavior back 10 months ago suddenly offensive to President Trump? Why is the fact that James Comey saw fit to reopen with a letter to an investigating congressman in October the whole issue of Hillary Clinton's emails - why is that suddenly offensive to the Trump administration? They did not have a problem with it at the time, except to say that James Comey, in their minds, should have gone after an indictment of Hillary Clinton and tried to prosecute her.

MCEVERS: What are we hearing from Republicans right now about this? What are they saying?

ELVING: Republicans are remarkably consistent in saying that the behavior of Mr. Comey, both last year and in recent days in talking about the investigation that is apparently underway still in the FBI and has been since last July - having to do with that Russian interference - that the way he has talked about it has undermined confidence in the FBI and that when he said that the suggestion that perhaps he had some influence on who won the election made him slightly nauseous, that that was not good behavior - and that there was just not a general sense of confidence in the FBI, in James Comey. That is what the Republicans are very consistently saying at this hour.

MCEVERS: At this hour - I mean, we have heard from one Republican talking about the need for a special prosecutor in the Russia investigation. Is that something you can see more Republicans saying in the days going forward? And if so, what would - what would it take for that to happen?

ELVING: Those are separate questions. In a very real sense, you can say the president did the right thing in letting Mr. Comey go, taking his resignation. And at the same time, it would be a good idea if we had some kind of independence in this investigation, whether a special prosecutor or whatever you want to call it. Those are compatible positions. Now, they may be uncomfortable, particularly for the administration. But those are things that Republicans can defensively say on both hands.

MCEVERS: What - we know we're not going to hear anything else from the White House tonight. What questions do you think the Trump administration is going to face in the days ahead?

ELVING: Well, we don't expect to hear anything more from the White House tonight. There is that possibility we could hear something from Twitter - and perhaps tomorrow morning, the usual Twitter hour, we will hear more from the president. He does seem to have been taken somewhat by surprise by the vociferous reaction to this, by the absolutely upset way in which people are behaving on cable television.

And so he may - because he watches a great deal of cable television - be getting the impression that this is a lot bigger deal than he thought it would be when he decided to take this course of action. So it would not be surprising if we hear from the president tomorrow morning early on. And we expect, at some point or another, him to push back on the notion that he could not possibly have had any motivation here except to protect himself and his associates from an investigation with regard to that Russian interference.

MCEVERS: You know, it's interesting to watch Trump on the campaign trail and watch, you know, and listen to him talking about how Comey restored his reputation in October, when he came forward and said he was reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails. I mean, that was just a few months ago when he was talking, you know, glowingly about Comey. What do you think happened in their relationship?

ELVING: There seems to have been some loss of faith in James Comey because in recent days, he has not handled the questions he was asked. And he's been testifying before intelligence committees in the House and Senate. And he has been answering questions in such a manner as to not entirely absolve the president of the United States.

Is he a target of the investigation? He doesn't exactly answer. He says, well, I don't want to tell you who is and who isn't because then I go down the slippery slope of actually naming names or by process of elimination. So I don't want to answer that question. That was not satisfactory to Donald Trump.

MCEVERS: Right. NPR's Ron Elving, thanks. This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ron Elving is Senior Editor and Correspondent on the Washington Desk for NPR News, where he is frequently heard as a news analyst and writes regularly for NPR.org.
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