Republican Sen. John McCain has likened the unfolding scandal around the former FBI director’s memo about his meeting with President Donald Trump to Watergate, but House Speaker Paul Ryan warned his fellow Republicans that they “need the facts” before drawing any conclusions.
“It is obvious there are some people out there who want to harm the president,” Ryan said during a press conference, reiterating what he told House Republicans in a closed-door meeting earlier.
“We’re going to follow the facts wherever they may lead,” he added.
When asked on his way out of the press conference about whether he still has confidence in the president, Ryan said, “I do.”
That may not be the case for McCain, however, as the longtime GOP politician and former Republican presidential candidate compared the latest Washington scandal to the one that led to the impeachment of President Richard Nixon in 1974.
“The only thing I can say is I think we’ve seen this movie before. I think it’s reaching the point where it’s of Watergate size and scale,” McCain, R-Arizona, told CBS contributor Bob Schieffer during the International Republican Institute Freedoms Dinner on Tuesday night.
The New York Times was the first to report on Tuesday about the memo that former FBI Director James Comey made after his meeting with Trump in February. A source close to the former FBI director confirmed the memo’s existence to ABC News. In the memo, Comey reportedly wrote about a conversation during which Trump asked Comey to end an investigation into the actions of his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.
McCain also reflected on the major headlines that have come out of the Trump White House nearly every day for more than a week. The memo’s release comes on the heels of Trump’s decision to fire Comey last Tuesday. The president also told NBC News in an interview that aired Thursday that he was thinking about Russia when he decided to fire the FBI director.
“It’s a centipede where the shoe continues to drop. Every couple days, there is a new aspect of this really unhappy situation,” McCain said.
Asked what he would advise President Trump to do now, McCain said, “Get it all out.”
“It’s not going to be over until every aspect of it is thoroughly examined and the American people have made a judgment,” McCain argued. “And the longer you make a delay, the longer it’s going to last.”
Another top Republican in Congress is calling for a special prosecutor to get to the bottom of the Comey memo and whether the president obstructed justice in asking the head of FBI to drop a federal investigation.
“It is time that we look at the idea of whether it’s an independent commission or a special prosecutor,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois, said in an interview today on CNN’s “New Day.”
Kinzinger went on to say, “I’m not sure it’s the best venue, but I think it is time that we do whatever is necessary so that when this is over, we give the American people the confidence that justice — either way it goes — has been served.”
The Illinois congressman argued that people are drawing conclusions based on their political affiliations, “not by the rule of law.”
Kinzinger added that he has not lost faith in the congressional investigations into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, but stressed, “We need honest, non-political answers.”
According to the source who read Comey’s memo, Trump told Comey: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.”
In a statement, the White House denied that Trump had made such a request to Comey.
“This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey,” the White House said.
Asked by The Hill if Comey’s memo would merit impeachment if what it contains is true, Rep. Justin Amash, R-Michigan, answered: “Yes.”
But Amash, a member of the House Freedom Caucus who the president has attacked on Twitter, added, “Everybody gets a fair trial in this country.”
Other members of the president’s party are waiting for more information before drawing conclusions.
“If Mr. Comey was alleging the president did something inappropriate, it’s an open invitation to come to the Judiciary Committee and tell us about it,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said yesterday on Capitol Hill. “I don’t want to read a memo. I want to hear it from him.”
A spokeswoman for Richard Burr, a Republican senator from North Carolina and the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement yesterday that he would follow up on the New York Times report.
“The Committee relies on facts to guide the investigation,” the statement read. “Sen. Burr will follow relevant leads, but the Committee has not seen what the New York Times reported … It certainly raises questions and he will follow up on acquiring those facts from credible sources.”
The communications director for Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma, Burr’s colleague on the committee, said in a statement provided to ABC News yesterday that: “Senator Lankford is concerned about the reports, and would like to see more clarification from the White House.”
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, told ABC News that if the suspicions are true, “Republicans can’t be okay with this.”
Flake said that if the president pressured Comey to get rid of the investigation and then later fired him, Republicans should be concerned.
On the other side of the aisle, Democrats are sounding the alarm following last night’s developments.
The top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee is accusing House Republicans of “ignoring these scandals.”
“Speaker Ryan has shown he has zero, zero, zero appetite for any investigation of President Trump,” Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, said today during a press conference on Capitol Hill.
“We’re deeply concerned that the continued failure of the House Republicans to take action in the face of this onslaught of allegations will cause significant damage to the faith the American people have in the credibility and the integrity of our committees and the House of Representatives.”
Speaking on the House floor this morning, Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, declared, “The president must be impeached.”
“For those who do not know, impeachment does not mean that the president would be found guilty,” Green said. “It simply means that the House of Representatives will bring charges against the president. It’s similar to an indictment but not quite the same thing.”
In an interview with MSNBC Wednesday morning, Sen. Angus King, an independent member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he is not ready to call for impeachment.
“I think we’ve got a long way to go. We’ve got to slow down and take a deep breath,” King said. “This is not something to be done lightly.”
ABC News’ Arlette Saenz and Mary Bruce contributed to this report.