President Donald Trump's firing of James Comey from his FBI director post has split the Republican Party into two factions — those scrambling to defend their leader and those who find themselves unable or unwilling to do so.
Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and John Cornyn of Texas effectively captured both of these positions on Twitter:
Meanwhile, one of Trump's chief rivals for the Republican presidential nomination, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, told an interviewer that he was "surprised" by Comey's firing but confident that the president would nominate a replacement "of the highest caliber." Rubio added that he respected the fact that "it's a decision the president's made."
— ABC News (@ABC) May 10, 2017
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who also ran against Trump in the 2016 primaries (albeit with much less success than Rubio), issued a brief statement, saying, "I believe a fresh start will serve the FBI and the nation well."
Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, who serves as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, echoed the Trump administration's denunciation of Comey's handling of the Clinton email investigation, arguing that "the effectiveness of the F.B.I. depends upon the public trust and confidence. Unfortunately, this has clearly been lost."
Similarly, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine downplayed the implications of Comey's firing on the Russian investigation, arguing that because Trump only fired Comey and not his entire agency, "any suggestion that this is somehow going to stop the F.B.I.’s investigation of the attempts by the Russians to influence the elections last fall is really patently absurd."
By contrast, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, declared in a statement that he is "troubled by the timing and reasoning of Director Comey's termination," adding that "his dismissal, I believe, is a loss for the Bureau and for the nation."
Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, 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."
The only certainty among the Republican responses came in the statement from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, promising a "full, fair, and timely confirmation process" to replace Comey.
[jwplayer file="http://media.salon.com/2017/05/876064b58104b47eba8304329977d56b.mp4" image="http://media.salon.com/2017/05/af59d5bd082479334e66793b5733a464-1280x720.png"][/jwplayer]