WASHINGTON — Alaska's three members of Congress had varying viewpoints in response to President Donald Trump's surprise firing Tuesday of James Comey, the director of the FBI.
Both Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan said the timing of the firing — amid an FBI investigation into potential Trump campaign ties to Russia — raised suspicions. But Sullivan and Rep. Don Young defended the president's authority to remove Comey from his post. All three are Republicans, as is the president.
"Whether or not you are a supporter of Mr. James Comey's actions as FBI Director, the timing of his firing — in the middle of an investigation into Russia's interference in our election — is serious cause for concern," Murkowski said in a statement Wednesday morning.
"The timing of the president's firing of Director Comey raises questions that will need to be answered by the administration," Sullivan said.
But, he noted that Trump "has the authority to choose the director of the FBI whom he believes will best lead the agency."
Meanwhile in Anchorage, about 40 protesters gathered Wednesday evening outside of the local offices of Murkowski and Sullivan. They protested the firing of Comey, chanting, "Dump Trump" and "Lock him up." They waved signs that read "Truth not Tweets," "Resist" and "Is it Watergate yet?"
"You can't fire the person who's investigating you," said one of the protesters, 75-year-old Mary Navitsky. Navitsky called for an independent counsel to investigate Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election.
"We need somebody who's impartial," she said.
Sullivan said that during the conformation of a new FBI director, investigations by the FBI and the Senate Intelligence Committee should continue regarding "Russia's involvement in the 2016 election, and the possible illegal unmasking of private citizens by federal officials. These investigations need to be free of political interference," he said.
Young took a different approach.
"Both sides of the aisle have previously called into question Director Comey's ability to lead the FBI; some have demanded his resignation, others have said he lost their confidence to do the job. It's odd to me that some of these same people are now calling foul play when the president reached the very same conclusion," Young said in a statement.
"In my mind, the response to this action — which is well within the president's authority — would have been the same had it happened in January, yesterday or 6 months from now," Young said.
Like Sullivan, Young said the investigations by the FBI and House and Senate Intelligence committees should continue.
"The American people deserve the facts, not a highly political witch hunt," Young said.
"The president cited that one of his reasons for firing Comey as FBI Director was that he had lost the public's trust and was unable to carry out the duties needed for the job. It is now our job to restore that trust," Murkowski said.
Tillerson and Trump separately met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Wednesday morning. Lavrov was expected to travel to Fairbanks Wednesday for an Arctic ministerial meeting. The congressional delegation and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson headed there Wednesday afternoon.