Now that FBI Director James Comey has been fired, Washington politicians are left with a myriad of questions. Chief among them, is who should continue with the investigation into the Russian interference during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Until Tuesday night, Comey was in charge, and had reportedly asked for more funding.
Republican and Democratic lawmakers are asking for an independent special prosecutor to take over.
The firing came unexpectedly. In fact, Comey was at a meeting in Los Angeles, when news of his firing was broadcast on a large television behind him. At first, he thought it was a joke.
The timing of Comey’s sudden departure from the FBI is suspect, many say. For the president to fire the man leading an investigation into his ties with Russia, is questionable at best.
"In any normal administration, firing the director of the FBI during an investigation of the administration would be viewed as suicidal," said Robert Deitz, a former top lawyer for the CIA and the National Security Agency who served under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
"This of course is not a normal administration," he added. "But no matter what, this will create a firestorm that will disturb even Trump loyalists on the Hill."
Trump insists he began to consider firing Comey as far back as January. In his letter to Comey, the president wrote “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.”
The first part of this statement, according to a Washington insider, shows the president’s insecurity and fear that he might be implicated.
Almost immediately after the news broke, the Justice Department began fielding calls from both parties, calling for a special prosecutor to oversee the bureau’s Russian investigation. Others want Comey, now a private citizen, to appear before the appropriate congressional committees to testify about the investigation.
Republican Sen. Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he was "troubled by the timing and reasoning of Director Comey's termination." He added that Comey's firing "further confuses an already difficult investigation by the Committee" into Trump's Russia ties.
Others called for a select, bipartisan congressional commission to further the Trump-Russia investigation. "I call on Speaker Paul Ryan to immediately appoint a bipartisan, non-classified, public and transparent commission to investigate the Trump-Russia relationship," Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen tweeted. "Our democracy is in danger."
Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, said in their statements that they recommended firing Comey because of how he handled the investigation into Hillary Clinton's email server. But New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt reported that Sessions had been trying to find an excuse to fire Comey for at least a week.
Deitz referred to President Richard Nixon's "Saturday Night Massacre," in which he fired the independent special prosecutor, Archie Cox, who had been appointed by then-Attorney General Elliot Richardson to investigate the events surrounding the Watergate break-in. Nixon initially asked Richardson to dismiss Cox, but Richardson refused to do so and resigned in protest instead, along with then-Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus.
Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer said Tuesday evening that he told Trump in a phone conversation that "you are making a big mistake." Schumer also questioned the timing and wondered whether investigations into the Trump campaign's possible ties to Russia were "getting too close for the president."