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Politics & Government

Sen. Klobuchar On Comey And Who Should Lead The FBI


President Trump has fired FBI Director James Comey. The why seems no clearer today than it was on Tuesday afternoon. We're going to begin this hour with Senator Amy Klobuchar, who's the senior senator from Minnesota. She is a Democrat. She joins us now on the line from Minnesota. Senator, thanks so much for being with us.

AMY KLOBUCHAR: Well, thank you, Scott. It's great to be on.

SIMON: Mr. Comey's declined to appear before the Senate intelligence committee, but The New York Times reports that he might be willing to testify, but he wants a public session. What's your feeling?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, I think a public session is a good idea. He could obviously do both. I actually went to law school with Jim Comey. We were in the same class, and he was respected by our classmates just like he was respected by the agents that he supervised. And I didn't like how he handled the Hillary Clinton investigation, but I don't think that was a reason to fire him. And I think, one, if anything, from the firing on, how it was handled - you know, the letter going out to Los Angeles in a complete surprise - it was unbelievable to me. And then you have - first, we're told it's based on that Justice Department letter. Then, we are told by the White House, no, he was thinking about doing earlier, and then the president himself bringing up Russia when he talks about how he's been thinking of firing him for a long time. So none of this stands up, and I think Jim Comey has information that we need to know because if we want a special prosecutor like I want to get to the bottom of this and we want the Senate intelligence committee to have the information it needs, we need to hear from Jim Comey, and the public needs to hear from Jim Comey.

SIMON: Let me just understand, Senator, the president of the United States has the right to make a change with or without explanation, doesn't he or she?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, that is correct, but look at what's happened here. This is smack dab in the middle of a major investigation of the campaign ties - the Trump campaign's ties to Russia. You have the national security adviser, who was intimately involved in his campaign, having had to resign after lying to the vice president. You have the campaign chair having to step down because of his ties to Russia. You have the president of the United States having fired the acting attorney general, Sally Yates, fired 40 some U.S. attorneys, including Preet Bharara, someone in New York City who could well be in a position to investigate this, and now fired the FBI director. These are the extraordinary circumstances that when you see those words and grounds for appointing a special prosecutor, this is it.

SIMON: How do you explain, though, Senator, that a few weeks ago a lot of Democrats were vocal in their criticism of James Comey, Keystone Comey, questioned, as you noted, his handling of Hillary Clinton's email? And now, they're defending him as a pillar of integrity.

KLOBUCHAR: Well, first of all, people varied in their criticism. I was not someone that called on him to be fired at any time. And I think that you can criticize how someone handles an investigation without thinking they should be fired. That's number one. Number two, whatever you thought of Jim Comey, everyone now knows, according to his acting director now, who had been his deputy, Andrew McCabe, that this was not just a minor investigation. This was a major investigation and something that he was ramping up and that was well known. And so you have the fact here that the president, who should have had a line between him and law enforcement, got involved in this. You remember back when he stood in front of the CIA where all of the 117 stars...


KLOBUCHAR: ...Of the agents and - who had died in the line of duty and started talking about the size of the inaugural crowd. I'm former prosecutor. And for me, the integrity of the justice system is all about the fact that these men and women go to work every day to be there for our country. They have some of the hardest jobs. They don't get the recognition with the FBI or the CIA that a lot of people do, and yet, they can't be politicized. And that is what is happening here when you start interfering in the middle of an investigation by firing the person in charge of it.

SIMON: Senator Amy Klobuchar is a Democrat from Minnesota. Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.