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May 11, 2017

*-- Comey firing: Dems ramp up call for special prosecutor on Russia --*

Democrats are ramping up their calls for a special prosecutor to investigate Russia's alleged meddling in the U.S. election after President Donald Trump fired James Comey as FBI director.

Some Democrats have accused Trump's administration of engaging in a coverup by ridding itself of the man overseeing an investigation into the relationship between his campaign and Russia. Democratic lawmakers are calling on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing the federal investigation into Russia because Attorney General Jeff Sessions previously recused himself, to appoint the special prosecutor.

"If we don't get a special prosecutor, every American will rightfully suspect that the decision to fire Comey was part of a coverup," Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., wrote in a statement Tuesday.

"The American people's trust in our criminal justice system is in Rosenstein's hands ... Mr. Rosenstein, America depends on you to restore faith in our criminal justice system, which is going to be badly shattered at the administration's actions today," Schumer also said in a press conference.

Trump said he fired Comey following the "clear" advice of Sessions and Rosenstein, who, among other reasons, cited Comey's handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails as the reason he be dismissed.

The White House said it immediately began seeking a replacement.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the ranking Democrat in the Judiciary Committee, said the "next FBI director must be strong and independent and will receive a fair hearing."

Some Democrats argue the Trump administration is attempting to undermine the federal investigation into Russia, alleging the White House will appoint someone as FBI director who will not be fully invested in ascertaining the truth.

"Now it's even more important that an independent special counsel is appointed to investigate the Russian interference in our elections," Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., said.

House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Trump's "sudden and brazen firing of the FBI director raises the ghosts of some of the worst executive branch abuses."

"We cannot stand by and watch a coverup of the possible collusion with a hostile foreign power to undermine American democracy," Pelosi wrote in a statement. "The interests of justice demand Congress act immediately to create an independent, bipartisan commission to pursue the Trump-Russia investigation free from the administration's attempts to silence it."

And it's not just the Democrats. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said he was "disappointed" with Trump's decision. McCain said Comey is a "man of honor and integrity" who "led the FBI well in extraordinary circumstances."

"While the president has the legal authority to remove the director of the FBI, I am disappointed in the president's decision to remove James Comey from office," McCain said in a statement. "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."

Some likened Trump's move to the 1973 "Saturday Night Massacre" in which former President Richard Nixon fired the special Watergate prosecutor in a move that also led Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus to resign.

Journalist Dan Rather, who reported Nixon's presidency during the Watergate investigation and through impeachment proceedings, also called for a special investigator following Comey's dismissal.

"If there is a coverup, if our nation is at the risk that has certainly been more than suggested, it is incumbent upon everyone who claims to love this nation to demand answers," Rather wrote in a statement. "We need a special prosecutor. We need an independent investigation. There is, obviously, much we don't know about what has just happened, why it happened and why now. Just as obviously there is much more, so much more that we need know. We need to damn the lies and expose the truth."

Previously, Democrats called on a special prosecutor to lead the investigation into Russia after it was revealed Sessions and several associates in Trump's campaign for the U.S. presidency had contact with Russians.

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