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As Democrats fume on Capitol Hill, more California Republicans react to Comey firing




WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 13:  FBI Director James Comey arrives at the U.S. Capitol for a classified briefing on Russia for all members of the House of Representatives (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 13: FBI Director James Comey arrives at the U.S. Capitol for a classified briefing on Russia for all members of the House of Representatives (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Alex Wong/Getty Images

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Democratic senators expressed shock and concern Thursday over the firing of FBI director James Comey during an intelligence committee hearing on Capitol Hill. 

The committee was scheduled to hear from Comey about the investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 election.

Instead, they had to settle for acting FBI director Andrew McCabe.

During questioning, North Carolina Senator Richard Burr referenced a line from President Trump's dismissal letter, in which Trump claimed Comey had informed him on three separate occasions he was not under investigation.

Burr asked McCabe, "Did you ever hear director Comey tell the President he was not the subject of an investigation?"

The acting director may have been dealing with first-time hearing jitters. McCabe had to repeat his answer with his microphone turned on.

"Rookie mistake, I'm sorry," he began. "Sir I can't comment on any conversations the director may have had with the president," McCabe said. 

Florida Senator Marco Rubio then asked McCabe if the dismissal was negatively impacting any work being done at the FBI.

"As you know Senator, the work of the men and women of the FBI continues despite any changes in circumstance, and decisions," he said. "So there has been no effort to impede our investigation to date. Simply put sir, you cannot stop the men and women of the FBI from doing the right thing, protecting the American people, and upholding the constitution."

California's delegation reacts

Almost a day and a half since Comey - and the rest of the world - learned he was out of a job, California Democrats continued to express profound concerns that the President was interfering with an active investigation.

They echoed comments made Wednesday on KPCC by Representative Adam Schiff.

"No one can tell whether this is something that the deputy attorney general recommended on his own and the president acted on, or the president essentially asked the justice department 'give me reasons to fire this guy' and they complied," he said.

On Wednesday, KQED's political editor Scott Shafer joined KPCC to discuss how the state's Republican members of congress were reacting.

He had a one word answer: "crickets."

But the silence didn't last. 

Several California Republicans released statements praising the president's decision. 

That includes Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield. He appeared at a live POLITICO event Wednesday night in San Francisco, where he said it was time for Comey to go.

"I don't think the director of the FBI should be a household name to everybody," McCarthy said. "I personally think when the FBI director thinks he becomes also the Attorney General and the prosecutor, he's probably overstepped... I would argue that Comey made the FBI political. And that's probably not the place to be."

But it hasn't been an entirely united front. At least one California Republican, Ed Royce of Fullerton, tweeted reservations with Comey's dismissal. He expressed support for a vigorous Russia investigation.

"Timing of Comey's firing raises many questions. We now need a top-notch, independent FBI director to finish the Russia investigation," Royce said in a tweet from his House Foreign Affairs Committee account, where he serves as chairman.

KPCC has reached out to Rep. Royce and several California Republican members of congress for further comment.

***Update: In an interview Thursday on Capitol Public Radio, Congressman Tom McClintock (R-Elk Grove) said he believes a special prosecutor should take over the investigation into Russian interference in U.S. elections.

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