Comey Memo Sends Senators Scrambling With Another Trump Scandal

UNITED STATES - MAY 9: Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., talks with reporters before the Senate Policy Luncheons in the Capitol on May 9, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Tom Williams/CQPHO

Lawmakers were just beginning to grapple with the week’s first White House controversy when news of yet another Trump-related scandal began echoing through Capitol Hill.

It was like Groundhog Day in the Senate basement late Tuesday. As senators were heading into the Capitol for an evening vote, they were met with a flurry of reporters quizzing them on a freshly published report that stands to engulf Washington while congressional Republicans try to stay on track with their agenda.

Twenty four hours ago, the news was classified information Trump passed on to Russian officials. Tuesday, it was a New York Times report detailing a memo in which it is said Comey described a Trump request to wind down the FBI’s investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.

“Each day as this unfolds, this pattern of obstruction of justice grows,” Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) told reporters.

The cycle was repeating with Republicans again rebuffing questions from reporters about the new revelations by saying that they had seen the report yet, and were reluctant to comment on anonymously-sourced press stories anyway.

“I have heard about. I haven’t read the story, and I am not going to comment until I know more about it,” Sen. James Risch (R-ID), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) told reporters he had only heard of report in the last five minutes. “I’ve got to read it” before commenting, he said.

After the memo was described to him, Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), a member of the GOP Senate leadership team, was asked if he thought the revelation would be troubling.

“Haven’t seen it,” he said.

Democrats — not surprisingly — used the latest news to amp up their calls for more oversight of the Trump administration.

“This is why we need a special prosecutor,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) told reporters.

Blumenthal said that he thought even Republicans have been “shaken” by the pace of controversies coming out of the White House but have a “distance to go” before joining Dems in the call for a special prosecutor.

Where there was some agreement was the growing desire to have Comey testify in public, which Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the Judiciary Committee’s top Democrat, reiterated.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a member of the Judiciary Committee, told reporters that he had asked Comey to come before his committee “to tell his side of the story.”

“I think it would be good for him if he did. It would be good for the country. I hope he’ll take me up on the offer,” Graham said.