WASHINGTON (Reuters) - After U.S. President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday, Democratic members of Congress denounced the move and renewed calls for an independent investigation of alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.
Democrats likened the dismissal to President Richard Nixon's firing of an independent special prosecutor during the Watergate investigation and discounted Trump's contention that the move was related to the Federal Bureau of Investigation probe of the emails of Hillary Clinton, Trump's rival for the presidency.
Some Republicans defended the firing, saying new leadership was needed at the law enforcement agency.
Here are reactions from Democrats and Republicans to Comey's firing:
"No one should accept President Trump’s absurd justification that he is now concerned that FBI Director Comey treated Secretary Clinton unfairly. ... This is nothing less than Nixonian."
- Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy
"Today’s action by President Trump completely obliterates any semblance of an independent investigation into Russian efforts to influence our election and places our nation on the verge of a constitutional crisis."
- Democratic Representative John Conyers
"Given the recent controversies surrounding the director, I believe a fresh start will serve the FBI and the nation well."
- Republican Senator Lindsey Graham
"This is Nixonian. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein must immediately appoint a special counsel to continue the Trump/Russia investigation."
-Democratic Senator Bob Casey
"I am troubled by the timing and reasoning of Director Comey’s termination ... His dismissal, I believe, is a loss for the bureau and the nation."
- Republican Senator Richard Burr, head of the Senate committee investigating Russia role in the election
"The decision ... raises profound questions about whether the White House is brazenly interfering in a criminal matter ... The same president who has called the investigation into the Russian hacking of our democracy and the potential complicity of his campaign a 'fake,' cannot pretend to have made such a decision uninfluenced by his concerns over Comey's continued involvement in the investigation."
- Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House committee looking into possible Russian connections
"Any suggestion that today’s announcement is somehow an effort to stop the FBI's investigation of Russia’s attempt to influence the election last fall is misplaced. The president did not fire the entire FBI; he fired the director."
- Republican Senator Susan Collins
"Earlier this afternoon, President Trump called me and informed me he was firing Director Comey. I told the president: 'Mr. President, with all due respect, you are making a big mistake' ... Given the way the president has fired Director Comey, any person who he appoints to lead the Russia investigation will be concerned that he or she will meet the same fate as Director Comey if they run afoul of the administration."
- Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer in remarks to reporters
"There is now a crisis of confidence at the Justice Department and President Trump is not being held accountable because House Republicans refuse to work with us to do our job."
- Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings, who called for immediate emergency hearings
"Many, including myself, have questioned his actions more than once over the past year. I believe new leadership at the FBI will restore confidence in the organisation and among the people who do the hard work to carry out its mission."
- Republican Senator Roy Blunt in a statement
"The president’s actions today are shocking. ... The only way this administration can begin to demonstrate a commitment to the rule of law ... is to cooperate fully with the ongoing congressional investigations and to support the appointment of an independent special counsel."
- Democratic Senator Mark Warner
"This FBI director has sought for years to jail me on account of my political activities. If I can oppose his firing, so can you."
- Fugitive former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked intelligence documents and is now living in Russia, on Twitter
"Over the course of the last several months, Director Comey's decisions on controversial matters have prompted concern from across the political spectrum and from career law enforcement experts."
- Republican Senator Charles Grassley
"There can be no question that a fully independent special counsel must be appointed to lead this (Russia) investigation. At this point, no one in Trump’s chain of command can be trusted to carry out an impartial investigation."
- Democratic Senator Ron Wyden on Twitter
"I find it deeply troubling that this decision comes a day after damning testimony by former acting Attorney General Sally Yates on Russia’s ties to the Trump campaign and just days before Comey was scheduled to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee."
- Independent Senator Bernie Sanders
"It is essential that ongoing investigations are fulsome and free of political interference until their completion, and it is imperative that President Trump nominate a well-respected and qualified individual to lead the bureau at this critical time."
- Republican Senator Bob Corker
"James Comey is a man of honour and integrity ... I have long called for a special congressional committee to investigate Russia's interference in the 2016 election. The president's decision to remove the FBI director only confirms the need and the urgency of such a committee.”
- Republican Senator John McCain
"The need for a special prosecutor is now crystal clear. President Trump has catastrophically compromised the FBI's ongoing investigation of his own White House's ties to Russia. Not since Watergate have our legal systems been so threatened."
- Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal
"Mr. Comey did not seem to understand some of the laws he was asked to investigate and unfortunately politicized his sensitive position as the FBI director."
- Conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch
"FUN FACT: President Nixon never fired the Director of the FBI #FBIDirector #notNixonian"
- Official Twitter account of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum
Compiled by Bill Trott; Editing by Peter Cooney and Lisa Shumaker