Few Republicans have stepped up to defend President Donald Trump in the wake of an explosive New York Times report Tuesday that Trump asked ex-FBI Director James Comey to “drop” the federal investigation into his former national security adviser Michael Flynn. In fact, members of the GOP have barely commented on the news at all, brushing off reporters staked out in Congress.
But one of the most important Republicans in the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election isn’t taking the memo’s apparent revelations lightly: Rep. Jason Chaffetz, of Utah, who oversees the House investigation into Russia as chairman of the United States House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, tweeted that his committee would “get the Comey memo, if it exists. I need to see it sooner rather than later. I have my subpoena pen ready.”
And he used it, sending a letter Tuesday night to Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe for “all memoranda, notes, summaries, and recordings referring to or relating to any communications between Comey and the President,” in order to determine “whether the President attempted to influence or impede the FBI’s investigation.”
“We need to have all the facts, & it is appropriate for Oversight Committee to request this memo,” Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said in a statement to CNN.
Sen. Richard Burr, of North Carolina, who as chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is tasked with spearheading the Senate’s Russia investigation, is reportedly also considering issuing demands of his own.
But news trickling out of Washington indicates most GOP lawmakers are still feeling “wide-eyed and WTF” about the news, and the majority have refused requests to go on camera with journalists. Those who are commenting have varied wildly in their response, a revealing new trend in the usually cohesive party. Sen. John McCain, who often criticizes the Trump administration despite voting with its legislation, reportedly compared the allegations to Watergate at a dinner Tuesday night. And several Republican legislators issued statements indicating they are taking the reports seriously.
“These serious allegations effect our nat’l security & they carry very real consequences. It’s time for Comey to testify before Congress,” tweeted Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington concurred, tweeting, “Of course Director Comey should testify. I believe an open, transparent government is most effective for the people we represent.”
Rep. Carlos Curbelo, of Florida also expressed dismay at the news. “If recent allegations are true, they mark the beginning of a new and very sad chapter of scandal and controversy in our country,” he tweeted. Rep. Mark Sanford of South Carolina also characterized the allegations as “troubling.”
Both Sen. Lindsey Graham of North Carolina and Rep. Peter King of New York told reporters they believe Comey should have reported the conversation immediately or resigned, though Graham also said he would consider a special prosecutor if the news was true.
“The reason I doubt this as it’s being reported is, Director Comey would have had an obligation to immediately bring that to someone’s attention,” King said. “It would have been a crime, the way it’s being reported if the president said, ‘you have to stop this investigation,’ that’s interfering with an investigation.”
Graham also asked Comey to testify before the Judiciary Committee, Politico reports. Comey previously declined to testify in a closed session before the Senate Intelligence Committee, shortly after his firing, but the New York Times reports he would willing to do so in an open hearing.
On the other hand, Rep. Darrell Issa of California, an ardent Trump supporter, made a clear statement to reporters.
I just asked @DarrellIssa abt the Comey news and he flicked me off — literally gave me the middle finger — and kept walking. Said nothing
— Rachael Bade (@rachaelmbade) May 16, 2017
This story is developing and will be updated further as more information becomes available.