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How local reps reacted to Comey's firing

How local reps reacted to Comey's firing

Move renews calls for independent investigation of Russian involvement
How local reps reacted to Comey's firing
From left: U.S. Reps. John Faso, R-Kinderhook; Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro; and Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam.

CAPITAL REGION — Both Republicans who represent parts of the Capital Region in Congress said today that they have concerns about President Donald Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey, and that an independent investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election is needed.

U.S. Reps. Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro, and John Faso, R-Kinderhook, issued statements critical of the Tuesday firing, which has raised questions about whether Trump is trying to stop an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian officials.

20th Congressional District U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, who has been consistently critical of Trump, said the firing re-emphasizes the need for a special prosecutor to look at the Russian connections.

Faso, who represents the 19th Congressional District, said the firing is "at the same time both unsurprising and shocking." Like many Democrats, he raised the possibility of an independent investigation.

He said the firing was unsurprising because of past questions -- renewed because of Comey's testimony to Congress last week, parts of which were inaccurate -- about the FBI's handling of the Hilary Clinton email investigation.

"However, the firing was shocking in that the FBI has an ongoing investigation into Russian efforts to influence U.S. elections last year," Faso said, in a prepared statement. "The public must have absolute confidence that the FBI investigation will be thorough and result in a complete resolution of that question regardless of the outcome. The facts must be known."

He said whoever is nominated as a replacement must be a person of "unquestioned integrity and experience, acceptable to both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate."

"If the nominee does not pass that test, then the only alternative in my view would be the selection of an independent investigator to get to the bottom of this matter once and for all," Faso concluded.

Stefanik, who represents the North Country's 21st Congressional District, has generally been loyal to Trump and last week supported the controversial Republican health care bill that Trump has endorsed, as did Faso. But on Wednesday, she said answers are needed.

"I respect Director Comey's years of public service and want more specific information as to why this decision was made by the President," Stefanik wrote on Facebook. "As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, I am committed to continuing the committee's bipartisan investigation and will follow the facts wherever they lead."

Tonko said the firing "casts further doubt" on whether Trump has the ability to lead the nation.

"I continue to be troubled by his erratic and inconsistent handling of his responsibilities and his fear of accountability, especially when it comes to his personal and business obligations to Russia," Tonko said. "The American people deserve to know the whole and unfiltered truth about Russia's involvement with the Trump campaign. Now, more than ever, we need a special prosecutor with the resources and authority to follow and report the facts wherever they may lead."

Tonko said there was clearly computer hacking and other Russian interference in the election, but the amount of interference needs to be known, and the situation also raises questions about Trump's management of the White House.

"The number of firings and resignations suggest that it's somewhat chaotic," Tonko said. "In the short run, to date, it shows we need more stability."

The FBI's Albany office on Wednesday referred a request for comment to FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., where a representative said by email that the bureau did not have any comment.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, swilliams@dailygazette.net or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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