POLITICO reported Tuesday night that the Trump administration hadn't anticipated an explosion of controversy when the president fired FBI Director James Comey earlier in the day. (To call it ‘unceremonious' would be understatement: Comey reportedly learned he'd been let go by seeing the news on television. At first, he assumed it was a prank.)
It's understandable why they might have felt that way: Comey lost the love of many Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, when he released a letter about an ongoing investigation into Clinton's emails just days before the 2016 presidential election, and his investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign in Russia was unlikely to win him support in a Republican Congress.
"James Comey turned out to be a guy who had no friends anymore in Washington," said Mack Mariani, chairman of Xavier University's political science department. "(Trump) seizes on this moment everybody's being critical of Comey, says, ‘I want to get rid of him anyway,' and so out he goes."
The explosion arrived nevertheless -- Comey is only the second FBI director ever to be fired from the post before completing his 10-year term -- and the blast resonated even in the Tri-State. WCPO reached out to politicians representing Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky for their perspective on the sudden firing, and their responses contain an overall tone of uncertainty.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich wrote that he was "extremely troubled by the circumstances surrounding the dismissal of FBI Director James Comey, who has served this nation honorably" and called for bipartisan collaboration to replace Comey and ensure a "full, fair" investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Gov. John Kasich statement on James Comey pic.twitter.com/Wrwj6sGqnz
— John Kasich (@JohnKasich) May 10, 2017
Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, also of Ohio, said: "Director Comey's tenure as FBI director has been marred by questionable judgement. … At the same time, the President firing the FBI Director in the middle of an investigation into the White House's ties to Russia raises serious questions about the independence of the FBI and the integrity of the ongoing investigation."
Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman had not responded to a request for comment or issued a public statement by midnight Tuesday.
"Serious questions" surfaced again in a statement released by Indiana Sen. Joe Donelly, a Democrat, who called for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the allegations of collaboration with Russia; his Republican counterpart, Sen. Todd Young, wrote that he was working to learn the facts behind the president's decision.
See Joe’s statement about the firing of FBI Director James Comey: pic.twitter.com/KmHRJZuaIB
— Senator Joe Donnelly (@SenDonnelly) May 9, 2017
Kentucky Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell did not offer a perspective on the firing itself, but said he looked forward to a "full, fair and timely" confirmation process for the person eventually nominated to replace Comey.
"This is a critical role that is especially important as America faces serious threats at home and abroad," McConnell said.
U.S. Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, said "partisan pundits rushed to blame one another" for Comey's firing after the news broke Tuesday evening.
"Director Comey unquestionably led divisive and complex investigations, and it is essential that the next Director of the FBI inspire confidence in the rule of law," a statement from Davidson's office said. "I look forward to reviewing the facts in question and seeing justice preeminent at the Justice Department."
One person with no reservations about the event? Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones, a longtime supporter of President Trump.
"It didn't surprise me," Jones said. "I'm surprised it took so long. … I don't want my FBI director to be involved in either side as far as politics goes, Republican or Democrat."
Few other Tri-State politicians offered such unqualified support Tuesday night, leading Mariani to predict a high-pressure week in Washington.
"It's going to be a very tense and very high-profile couple of days in the Senate," he said.