It’s good to see you all, but it is impossible to ignore that one of the leaders of the
intelligence community is not here with us today. The president’s firing of FBI director
Comey Tuesday night was a shocking development. The timing of director Comey’s dismissal to me and to many members on this committee on both sides of the aisle is especially troubling. He was leading an active counterintelligence investigation into any links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government or its representatives and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts to interfere in our election.
For many people, including myself, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the president’s decision to remove Director Comey was related to this investigation and that that is truly unacceptable. We were scheduled to hear directly from Director Comey today in open session. We and the American people were supposed to hear straight from the individual responsible for the FBI investigation. We anticipated asking Director Comey a series of questions about his actions and the actions of the FBI in terms of looking into which Trump associates, if any, and some of their actions during the campaign as it relates to the Russians. However, President Trump’s actions this week cost us an opportunity to get at the truth, at least for today.
You may wonder a little bit how seriously I know the White House continues to dismiss this investigation. I point out simply for the record the front page of the New York Times, which shows pictures of clearly an administration that doesn’t take this investigation too seriously. It is important to restate the critical importance of protecting the independence and integrity of federal law enforcement. This is central to maintaining the confidence of the American people in the principle that all Americans no matter how powerful are accountable before the law. The president’s actions have the potential to undermine that confidence, and that should be deeply concerning no matter which political party we belong to.
This week’s remarkable developments make our committee’s investigation into Russia’s influence on the 2016 US presidential election even more important. And while it is clear to me, now more than ever, that an independent special counsel must be appointed, make no mistake — our committee will get to the bottom of what happened during the 2016 presidential election. And again, I want to compliment the Chairman on his work in this effort. We will not be deterred from getting to the truth. These actions will do nothing to undermine our resolve to follow the evidence wherever it leads.