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GOP Rep. Jim Banks On James Comey: 'Numerous Missteps' Led To Firing

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

For more reaction, we're joined now by Indiana Republican Congressman Jim Banks who's in Columbia City, Ind. Welcome to the program, Congressman.

JIM BANKS: It's great to be with you.

SIEGEL: You've said that you supported President Trump's decision to fire James Comey, but you said the president must explain the rationale behind this decision. Do you think he did that adequately in the letters that were released yesterday or no?

BANKS: No, not yet. But I do believe the president has a tremendous opportunity to explain his decision to the American people. In fact, I think he needs to do that very much so here in the near future. The timing of the firing is suspicious to say the least. So the president has a window of time to rise to the moment as a leader and explain his decision. I hope very much that he will do that.

SIEGEL: The timing would be less suspicious if he had said, I'm doing this because of what James Comey is doing right now with the Russia investigation or what he did last week - what he said about Huma Abedin's emails. Instead, the documentation yesterday was all about how he treated Hillary Clinton's emails in July and October. Do you accept that as the real rationale for this decision?

BANKS: What I do accept is that James Comey and how he handled the proceedings during the election last year were inadequate to fit the level of integrity and judgment that we would expect from the director of the FBI as a Republican. Even myself, I was - I cringed at the numerous missteps by the FBI director last year during the election. And since then, more reasons have piled up from inaccurate testimony before the Congress in recent days to other missteps along the way.

I believe the president has a lot - he has a lot of good reason to replace the FBI director, but the timing is suspicious with the subpoenas that were just issued. A number of questions - the American people deserve for their president to come forward and further explain the timing of this decision. It would be the right thing to do for the president.

SIEGEL: I think the subpoenas you're referring to - there are reports of subpoenas to the grand jury that spring from the FBI's investigation into Russian activities in the election campaign. Should that investigation continue? Is it important for the American people to know that whatever the FBI has done so far about what Russia was doing in 2016, it'll continue to do?

BANKS: Well, the investigation should continue, and it will continue from everything that I understand. And the FBI will continue to investigate the serious questions and allegations that were raised over the past several months about the activities that happened during the election. I have no doubt that the FBI will thoroughly investigate, as well as the Congress itself, which has that authority to do so.

A new FBI director, though, can restore the trust among the American people to the important role of the FBI and make that report - that investigation that much more significant and meaningful when it is completed. So the president has an opportunity at this time to make a good decision about who will lead the FBI forward and restore the trust in the FBI as an institution and at the same time, strengthen whatever the result might come from that investigation. It must move forward.

SIEGEL: And I'm just curious. If the president is to step forward in your view - if he ought to really be explaining his decision and the timing of this decision, what's an appropriate forum for him to do that in?

BANKS: There are many appropriate forums, whether it's a press conference at the White House. This president has yet, I believe, to address the American people in a more formal setting. He could do that in many different ways. I hope that he will rise to the moment. I'll defer to him and his circle of influence around him on the best way to do that.

But what I do hope - that he will rise to the moment and provide the American people a more thorough explanation of the timing. I think it would be the appropriate thing for him to do.

SIEGEL: Congressman Jim Banks, a Republican of Indiana, thanks so much for talking with us.

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