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Democratic senators call Trump's firing of Comey 'Nixonian'; some demand independent Russia investigation

Lawmakers in Congress were stunned by President Trump's sudden firing Tuesday of FBI Director James B. Comey in the midst of an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, including possible coordination with Trump associates.

Democrats quickly described Trump's dismissal of Comey as "Nixonian" and pushed for immediate hearings on the firing, while Republicans insisted it is the president's prerogative to hire and fire the nation's top law enforcement officer.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he told Trump he was making a "very big mistake."

"Were these investigations getting too close to home for the president?" Schumer asked. "They fired Director Comey, the very man leading the investigation.... This does not seem to be a coincidence."

Schumer and others said the Justice Department should now appoint an independent special prosecutor for the Russia inquiry. 

"Removal of director Comey only confirms need for select [committee] to investigate," tweeted Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Lawmakers in the House and Senate called for immediate hearings in Congress over Comey's dismissal.

"Trump’s decision to fire him now, in the midst of an investigation into Trump associates and their ties to Russia, is outrageous," said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)  "Director Comey should be immediately called to testify in an open hearing about the status of the investigation into Russia and Trump associates at the time he was fired."

But Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said a "fresh start" at the Federal Bureau of Investigation would be welcome.

“I know this was a difficult decision for all concerned," Graham said. “Given the recent controversies surrounding the director, I believe a fresh start will serve the FBI and the nation well."

The House is on recess, and many senators, who had finished their work for the day, were caught off guard by the news.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was presiding over an almost empty chamber when an aide slipped him information about the firing.

“It wasn’t expected but it’s certainly within his prerogative,” said Rubio, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is conducting its own Russia inquiry.

“I don’t think it will have an impact, certainly on the Intelligence Committee’s work,” Rubio told reporters. “I can tell you, we’re going to do our work in the Intelligence Committee, go where the facts lead us.”

The No. 2 Republican, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, called Comey "a good man and an honorable man," and noted that Democrats had criticized Comey last year during the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton's email server.

"I hope the president can find somebody who can be a strong independent leader for the department," Cornyn told reporters. "It’s really important for the country.”

Republicans have control of Congress, with 52 Republicans in the Senate, which will need to confirm Comey's replacement by a simple majority.

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