Grassley Says New FBI Director Should "Obviously" Not Be Close To Trump

May 16, 2017

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley says he hasn’t decided if he’ll invite former FBI Director James Comey to testify before the senate Judiciary Committee, which Grassley heads.

News reports say the former FBI director is interested in testifying before Congress, where questions about his sudden and controversial firing will likely be asked.

Grassley says he’ll make up his mind on whether he wants Comey’s testimony after Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein briefs senators on Thursday. Shortly before his firing, Rosenstein wrote a memo criticizing Comey's handling of the investigation into former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton's email server. 

"I’m interested in the timing of his getting involved in firing of Comey. Whether or not he thought that ought to be done," says Iowa's senior senator. "Even if he didn’t conclude it should be done, compared to when the president said he determined to fire Comey."

A Whitehouse spokeswoman, an advisor and the vice president all first said the president fired Comey on Rosenstein's memo. But President Trump later contradicted them, saying he would have dismissed Comey regardless of the deputy attorney general's recommendation.   

Perhaps more pressingly, the nation's prime law enforcement agency needs a new director. Grassley's opinion carries weight as the judiciary committee oversees the FBI.

Though he didn't list any favorites, the senator stressed the director needs to be independent.

"Obviously [they should not be] not close to Trump and obviously, very obviously not involved in any way with the Trump campaign," he says. "This independence is very necessary to restore trust with the FBI."

The New York Times and other organizations reported last week that President Trump asked Comey to pledge loyalty to him, during a dinner shortly after inauguration. Comey reportedly demurred, telling the president the FBI needs to be independent from the Whitehouse.