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James Comey's Firing Raises Questions About FBI Probe Into Russia

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Right now we have NPR's Mara Liasson, who is at the White House. And Mara, are we expected to hear anything more tonight from White House Spokesman Sean Spicer or anyone else?

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: No, we are not. We've basically been given a lid for the night. That means that they're not going to come out and brief us. What we know is what we've been presented on paper, which in and of itself is one of the most curious parts of this whole episode. The president just fired the person who was conducting an investigation into potential contacts or collusion between his campaign and the Russians, and he has not come out and explained to the American people why he did that. His spokesman hasn't come out.

And what I am trying to figure out is what the White House feels this will get them. You've heard from Mark Warner and of course a chorus of other Democrats that this means we have to have a special counsel to investigate the potential Russian meddling. Republicans so far have been pretty quiet with the exception of John McCain, who had already called for a special counsel. And of course he's continuing to...

MCEVERS: Right.

LIASSON: ...And says this makes him want to. But most Republicans are saying they believe that the FBI and the appropriate Senate committees can conduct this investigation. They say they're not worried about this at this time. But you have Democrats talking about a constitutional crisis.

MCEVERS: What do you think? I mean do you think this is the kind of thing that gives the Democrats the momentum to get a special prosecutor in a case like this, or do you think things will go forward as they are?

LIASSON: Well, I think that you're going to hear from Democrats day in and day out about why a special prosecutor is needed. You know, Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate, had a short press conference. He said he told the president on the phone, you're making a big mistake. He said that any person Trump appoints to lead the FBI - in other words, to lead the Russian investigation - will be concerned that they'll meet the same fate, and that person will be viewed as not fair and impartial. And it is quite striking that Jeff Sessions, the attorney general who had to recuse himself from the Russian investigation, just recommended that the guy conducting the investigation be fired.

MCEVERS: What kind of relationship did President Trump and James Comey have before this?

LIASSON: President Trump praised James Comey effusively, talked about how courageous he was at the end of October when - and he restored his reputation when he came out and said that the investigation was being reopened into Hillary Clinton's emails. This is something that many Democrats feel cost her the election. Donald Trump really was happy about him then.

Now, he wasn't so happy when Comey announced that he was continuing an investigation into possible contacts between his campaign and the Russians. As a matter of fact, in his letter to Comey today, he said, I greatly appreciate you informing me on three separate occasions that I am not under investigation. Nevertheless, I'm firing you. And that kind of obviates the whole narrative that the White House tried to put out today, which is, we're firing him because he was mean to Hillary Clinton.

MCEVERS: Right.

LIASSON: We're firing him because he mishandled the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails. So it's pretty extraordinary. I think this is a very big deal. I can just tell you that I just got a tweet from a Republican member of Congress, Justin Amash, who says that his staff is - and he are reviewing legislation to establish an independent commission on Russia. So I do think that is going to be the subject of discussion going forward.

MCEVERS: NPR's Mara Liasson, thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.