Vulnerable House Republicans are calling for former FBI Director James B. Comey to testify before Congress following a report from The New York Times that President Donald Trump told him to drop an investigation into his former national security adviser’s ties to Russia.
Comey, the Times reported, wrote a memo documenting a conversation he had with Trump in February the day after national security adviser Michael Flynn was forced to resign amid revelations about his correspondence with the Russian ambassador during Trump’s presidential campaign.
“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Trump said, according to the report on Comey’s memo, which was read in part but not provided to a reporter at the Times. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
Several House Republicans were just learning about the story as they arrived to the Capitol on Tuesday after a week-long period of district work. Most GOP members declined to comment absent more information but several whose seats the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is targeting in 2018 were quick to suggest hauling Comey to the Capitol.
“I think Director Comey should testify before Congress as soon as possible,” New Jersey Rep. Leonard Lance told reporters.
Fellow New Jersey Republican Frank A. LoBiondo called for the same in a tweet, saying, “American people deserve to hear all facts. Country must have answers. It is clear former FBI Director Comey should testify before Congress.”
Comey declined an invitation from the Senate Intelligence Committee to testify before the panel in a closed meeting this week due to scheduling reasons, according to a spokesman. He was dismissed by Trump as FBI chief on May 9.
Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo told reporters that Comey should testify in a public hearing, adding, “the sooner the better.” He said he had not yet read the Times story but noted, “If these allegations are true, it is deeply troubling and it certainly opens up a new chapter that all of us have to consider very carefully.”
Curbelo is among the Republicans, like Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain, calling for Congress to form a select committee to investigate possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and any allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign or administration and the Kremlin.
Tuesday’s news, as well as a Monday report from The Washington Post that Trump shared classified information with Russian diplomats last week that could have compromised an intelligence sharing relationship with an ally, should be included in a select committee investigation if one were to be approved, Curbelo said.
“I trust members of Congress working in a true, genuine bipartisan manner on a committee with as singular focus as opposed to the House Intelligence and Senate Intelligence committees, which have to do the rest of their work on top of investigating this issue,” Curbelo said.
Another Florida Republican, Rep. Brian Mast, said he would like Congress to have access to the Comey memo, if one exists, but otherwise, he did not have much to say about the Times story. The Army veteran said it’s not yet clear what exactly Trump revealed in his meeting with Russian officials but he noted the importance of protecting intelligence sources.
“Speaking about intelligence, it’s a very serious thing,” Mast said. “The way that you gather it is a very fragile thing. And it should be taken very seriously because irreparable harm can be done for a long time.”
While Mast, Curbelo, LoBiondo and Lance are all Democratic targets, they didn’t appear worried about the effect of potential administration scandals on their own re-election campaigns.
“I’m confident that I represent the views of the overwhelming majority of my district,” Lance said.
Curbelo, too, said he is not worried.
“My constituents know me,” he said. “They have known me to be objective, clear-eyed about members of both parties, leaders of both parties. I have always taken principled positions. I have always been willing to criticize anyone who has been acting improperly, regardless of their party.”