WASHINGTON — More Republicans have edged away from President Trump following allegations that he asked former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director James Comey to drop a probe into links between his associates and Russia.
Mr John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the developments had reached “Watergate size and scale”, while Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona tweeted: “Congress needs to see the Comey memo”.
Representative Justin Amash, a Michigan Republican who has a history of openly criticising Mr Trump and bucking his party, told reporters yesterday that if the allegations contained in the so-called Comey memo were true, they constituted grounds for impeachment.
Mr Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the oversight and government reform committee, had formally asked the FBI to turn over to the committee all memos and other documents or recordings relating to communications between Mr Trump and Mr Comey by May 24.
“If true, these memoranda raise questions as to whether the President attempted to influence or impede the FBI’s investigation as it relates to Lieutenant-General (Michael) Flynn,” wrote Mr Chaffetz, a Republican.
Other Republicans trod cautiously amid the fast-moving developments. Senator Richard Burr, the intelligence committee chairman, said Mr Comey “never mentioned” any presidential effort to short-circuit his investigation of Mr Flynn.
Mr Burr, who is leading an investigation of the Trump campaign’s alleged links to Russia, said he and the committee’s ranking Democrat, Senator Mark Warner, had met Mr Comey the day before the President fired him.
“The director of the FBI shared more information with Senator Warner and myself than any director has ever shared,” he said. “I think something as material as that probably would have been something he would have shared, had it happened,” he said.
Congressional Republicans have largely backed Mr Trump through the rocky initial months of his administration, but the events of the past week — Mr Comey’s firing, the report that Mr Trump disclosed classified information to Russian officials, and Mr Comey’s memo — are testing the party’s patience.
“There needs to be serious changes at the White House immediately,” said Senator Patrick J Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell added in a Bloomberg Television interview on Tuesday: “It would be helpful to have less drama emanating from the White House.”
Several Republicans said on Tuesday after the memo surfaced that Mr Comey should testify to Congress.
The Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday asked Mr Comey to testify before the panel in public and in private. It also asked the FBI for any notes or memos written by Mr Comey about his communications with administration officials about the Russia probe.
“There’s a lot here that’s really scary,” Nebraska’s Republican Senator Ben Sasse said yesterday morning in an interview. “It’s obviously inappropriate for any President to be trying to interfere with an investigation.”
In his comments to reporters on Monday, Senator Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, was more explicit.
“Obviously they’re in a downward spiral right now,” Mr Corker said, “and they’ve got to figure out a way to come to grips with all that’s happening.”
The latest crisis comes at the worst possible moment for Mr Trump’s team. His national security and foreign policy staff have been spending much of their time planning for his coming eight-day trip to the Middle East and Europe — his first major overseas trip as President, and an opportunity, they thought, to reset the narrative of his presidency after the controversy of Mr Comey’s sudden dismissal last week. AGENCIES