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GOP Rep. Jim Banks Responds To James Comey's Senate Testimony


As we've been talking about, former FBI Director James Comey testified in front of the Senate intelligence committee today. He detailed his belief that President Trump fired him over his investigation into Russia's role in the 2016 election and its ties to the Trump campaign. Now, for some reaction from Capitol Hill, we turn to Congressman Jim Banks. He's a Republican from Indiana. Welcome to the program.

JIM BANKS: Great to be with you.

CORNISH: You know, the last time you were on our program, you said that the American people deserved for their president to come forward and further explain the timing of the decision to fire James Comey. And today, Comey said he was confused about what he called the president's shifting explanations. Your reaction to what you heard.

BANKS: Well, I think that's absolutely still correct. The testimony today was further proof that the president, while warranted in firing Director Comey - as many of us believe - shows poor timing to do so. The testimony today has been a part of a growing frenzy that's been a distraction on Capitol Hill - an unnecessary distraction - that's prevented us from getting done the agenda that the American people have elected us to fulfill as Republicans on Capitol Hill. But I do hope that after today's testimony we can get back on track. There was no smoking gun from today. There was no - there was no game changer that came out of the testimony today.

Other than maybe a realization that the president might have acted in an inappropriate way, nothing that we heard today would rise to the level of illegal conduct or obstruction of justice. So hopefully that will allow us to get back on track, allow the ongoing FBI investigation and the bipartisan investigations in the House and the Senate to do their work so we can get back on track and do ours.

CORNISH: You know, one point that the former FBI director made explicitly and under oath is about why he kept notes of his interactions with the White House. Essentially, he said he believed that the current president of the United States cannot be trusted. What was your reaction to that language?

BANKS: Well, that's a troubling indictment of the president by someone who he fired, so there are a lot of questions that were raised today. Again, I would agree that what I heard today would, if true, would lead me to believe that the president acted in an inappropriate way in how he dealt with Director Comey. But once again, to be very clear, nothing that we heard today was a smoking gun that would be a game changer in this conversation. It's important that we allow the ongoing investigations to do what they're supposed to do to come to a conclusion and present facts to the American people. And we can follow the facts from there. But anything else aside from that would be inappropriate to comment on at this point.

CORNISH: The attorney for President Trump today said that he feels completely vindicated, that the president's eager to move on with his agenda with this, quote, "public cloud removed." Do you agree that a public cloud has been removed?

BANKS: Well, again, we have to allow the ongoing FBI investigation, the one being led by former Director Mueller, to come to a conclusion and present its conclusion to the American people. And I believe that once that does come to a conclusion with the credibility of that investigation, the credibility and reputation of Director Mueller, that that would ultimately lift the cloud if nothing - no facts are presented from that investigation that are different than what we've heard today.

CORNISH: It sounds like you're saying that we're not there yet.

BANKS: I would - I would agree with that. With the ongoing FBI investigation and the two investigations in the House and the Senate, we need to allow those investigations to work through the process before a cloud would be lifted.

CORNISH: What have you been hearing from your Republican colleagues in the House today?

BANKS: Well, we're ready to move on. We have important work to do, and I think overall my colleagues in the House of Representatives, both Republicans and Democrats, are ready to get the work done that we were elected to come here to do. And we have big issues that we have to tackle in this Congress and the growing frenzy from issues related to these investigations often distract us from being able to accomplish that.

CORNISH: At the same time, James Comey talked about the idea that some of the actions he took after he was fired came in response to tweets by the president, interviews by the president. This overshadowing of what you're trying to do, is it coming essentially from the White House?

BANKS: Some of it indeed coming about by the White House, bringing about unnecessary distractions, once again, that distract us from being able to get back on track and fulfill this conservative Republican agenda. But overall, I think this is a part as well of a calculated strategy by those on the left to seek to disrupt our ability to fulfill an agenda as well. So overall, it's important for Republicans to step aside and focus on what's important to the American people, which is the agenda that we were elected to address.

CORNISH: Congressman Jim Banks is a Republican from Indiana. Thank you for speaking with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

BANKS: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.