GOP Rep. James Comer Reacts To Calls For Comey Memos

May 17, 2017
Originally published on May 17, 2017 6:31 pm
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Lawmakers are also starting to hear from their constituents.

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JAMES COMER: Just got back from a recess where I had four town halls. The people think the press is really piling on the president right now, so I think we just continue to let the process work out.

CORNISH: That's Congressman James Comer in the halls of Congress today. He's a Republican from Kentucky and a member of the House Oversight Committee. We caught up with him by phone a bit later to hear what he thinks about the revelations that have come out over the last few days.

COMER: Well, I think we all need to see the memo and know exactly what was said. If the president did indeed actually say what some media sources have been reporting today, this is a very serious issue. But I do think that a lot of people on Capitol Hill are jumping to conclusions. Let's get all the facts in before we make some big decisions.

CORNISH: We heard reports today from The Washington Post that you said President Trump may as well have been joking when he said I hope you can let this go to the FBI director, James Comey. You said it might look different on paper.

COMER: Well, the way the reporter asked the question said some people say that his type of personality - he's often seen joking a lot - do you think that the president could have been joking? And I said, well, he may could have been joking. A lot of times when you tell a joke in a room, everybody laughs, but when you see it in print, it doesn't look very funny. And that could have happened.

I'm not saying that it did, but I was a little disappointed that the Washington Post reporter tweeted that out because there was a lot more to that quote than what he put in the tweet. But, you know, the bottom line is this - nobody's above the law. As a member of the Oversight Committee, I take this very seriously. I support both Chairman Chaffetz and ranking member Cummings' request to see the actual Comey memo. I support investigating General Flynn. I support subpoenaing Comey, you know, to hear his side of the story.

And another thing that pops into my mind that the deputy FBI director testified before Congress just last week and never mentioned this. You know, Comey, if this actually happened in February, why did he wait three months before he said anything? I don't understand. So there are a lot of questions that need to be answered before we jump to conclusions.

CORNISH: Now, if this does come down to essentially a he-said-he-said-situation, who has the credibility to your mind?

COMER: Well, I can say this. A lot of the Democrats that are fussing today were saying weeks ago, they were leaving messages on my social media, calling my office demanding that Trump fire Comey, that he had no credibility, that he was arrogant, that he botched the election and he was in Trump's back pocket. Well, now that the president has fired Comey, these same people are saying, oh, my God, you know, he's covering something up, and Comey was about to bust Trump.

And so there's just a lot of emotion flowing in Washington, D.C. I don't take the situation lightly at all. And I believe that the House Oversight Committee's the perfect platform to get the facts on what happened, and then we can start making judgments based on the real facts.

CORNISH: Democrats have been calling for an independent commission to investigate the entire question of President Trump and Russia. Most Republicans have resisted that idea, but given the events of the past week, do you still think that there is not a need for an independent body to look into all of this?

COMER: Well, who's going to pick who the independent body is? You know, that's one question that keeps popping in my head when I see people go on TV requesting an independent body. And I...

CORNISH: But Congress, right? I mean, that happened with 9/11.

COMER: I mean, how - I can - I've just been here six months, but it would be hard for Congress to come up with an independent body that everybody had confidence in, in my opinion. So I think that the route to go is the House Oversight Committee. It's my understanding that if the two ranking members of the committee do not get the memo by the end of this week that they're going to start issuing subpoenas, and I support that. I told the chairman that.

CORNISH: Donald Trump proved during the campaign that he can withstand all kinds of controversies and scandals, but do you see this particular storm as one this White House can weather? Like, what's the breaking point for you?

COMER: Well, if any laws were violated, then that's certainly a serious problem that the President would have. I have confidence in the president thus far. I wish the president would explain exactly to the American people what happened, but he may be waiting until after Comey's testimony. I'm sure that Comey's going to have his version of the story, and I'm sure the president will have his version of the story.

But until we hear from James Comey and until we hear from President Trump, I don't think that we can rush to any conclusions that we need to think about impeachment or we need to think about disciplinary action because there are a lot of facts that are still lingering out there. And I have confidence that there are enough committees in Congress now investigating Trump's ties with Russia, investigating now this James Comey and General Flynn thing, so I think the truth will come out in a very quick period of time.

CORNISH: Republican James Comer is a member of the House Oversight Committee. Thank you for speaking with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

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