Donald Trump's firing of FBI director James Comey has led to loud and bipartisan outrage. The president's removal of a law enforcement official overseeing an investigation that could affect that president's associates is unprecedented and suspicious as hell. Hours later, senators like John McCain, Chuck Schumer, and Bernie Sanders were calling for an independent committee to continue investigating the president's connection in Russia. This is good! Although the persistent chaos of the Trump administration can cloud our judgment of what is normal, this is scary. Politico reported that Trump gave Comey the boot because he "had grown angry with the Russia investigation... and that the FBI director wouldn't support his claims that President Barack Obama had tapped his phones in Trump Tower."
If that reporting is accurate, this was a politically motivated firing of what is supposed to be a nonpartisan office. That should alarm everyone and spur politicians of both parties to worry about what is happening in the White House. But some decided in the aftermath of the firing that it was more important to shamelessly use their opportunity to demonstrate their loyalty to the president. As Arizona Republican Jeff Flake said on Twitter, "I've spent the last several hours trying to find an acceptable rationale for the timing of Comey's firing. I just can't do it." But many of his colleagues can do it and have loudly defended the president's decision. Here are the 11 most cowardly responses to this developing scandal:
1. Senator Joe Manchin
The Democratic senator from West Virginia has been sucking up to Trump since November, leaning so far to the right that some accuse him of basically being a Republican. Tuesday night, he went on cable news to downplay the significance of the firing. He told CNN, "At first blush, I will just tell you, it is not going to impede our investigation in finding out where the Intel Committee basically is going to get its information." Later, skipping over to FOX News, he added:
The only thing I am hopeful for right now is whoever the president recommends for confirmation, advise and consent from the Senate, it's someone that we can all gather around, it's someone that we have confidence in, and it can be overwhelmingly bipartisan.
2. Representative Jim Banks
The Indiana Republican defended the big man in the Oval Office by pointing out there was once a time that Democrats also didn't like Comey. This would be a decent line if there were Democrats (besides the notably unorthodox Manchin) who weren't up in arms over the firing.
3. Senator John Cornyn
Singing a similar tune to Banks, the Texan Republican took to Twitter to remind the world of the Democrats' complicated relationship with the former FBI director.
4. Senator Marco Rubio
The Florida senator was repeatedly humiliated by Trump during the campaign and even nicknamed "Little Marco Rubio." Trump said Rubio had "the biggest ears I've ever seen" and suggested he's the type of man to piss his pants. But since Trump won Rubio has been his lackey, and this week continued that trend, telling ABC News that even though he was surprised by the decision, he's "sure [Trump] will nominate someone of the highest caliber" to replace Comey.
5. Senator Lindsey Graham
The South Carolina Republican isn't afraid of criticizing Trump, but he had a milquetoast response to the firing, blandly tweeting:
Wednesday morning, he went on MSNBC to opine on the supposed overreaction to Comey's firing: "This is not Watergate... I think we need a new face and a new guy... On FOX, everyone's OK with this by the way."
6. Senator Roy Blunt
The Missouri Republican practically celebrated Comey's dismissal, issuing the following statement:
Many, including myself, have questioned his actions more than once over the past year. I believe new leadership at the FBI will restore confidence in the organization and among the people who do the hard work to carry out its mission.
7. Senator Chuck Grassley
Most famous for his wild tweets—for example, "Fred and I hit a deer on hiway 136 south of Dyersville. After I pulled fender rubbing on tire we continued to farm. Assume deer dead"—the Iowa Republican's response to Comey's termination was rather aggressive. He went on FOX and Friends to tell the haters, literally, "Suck it up and move on."
8. Senator Rand Paul
The Kentucky Republican took it farther than most of his colleagues, telling the hosts of FOX and Friends that the Democrats "should be thanking President Trump for getting rid of Comey because he politicized something that may well have had something to do with Hillary Clinton's loss." Remember when Paul was the "most interesting man in politics"? Me neither.
9. Representative Ron DeSantis
The Florida Republican issued the following statement: "President Trump made the right decision to relieve FBI Director James Comey of his duties. I look forward to the President nominating a strong director who will keep the FBI focused on its core mission and out of the political thicket."
10. Senator Mitch McConnell
The Senate majority leader spent much of Tuesday night and Wednesday tongue-kissing the ring, going the extra mile by "forcefully [rejecting] calls for an independent prosecutor or commission," insisting "too much is at stake" to stop the current investigation into Trump's ties to Russia and start a new one. A new investigation, McConnell said, would "only serve to impede the current work being done to not only discover what the Russians may have done but also to let this body and the national security community develop counter measures." Would it impede the investigation more than, say, firing the FBI director?
11. Senator Ted Cruz
Can Trump do anything to lose the trust of these men? Maybe we'll find out!
Follow Eve Peyser on Twitter.