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Sen. Klobuchar vows Judiciary Committee will closely vet Comey's replacement

WASHINGTON – As President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey continues to rock the Capitol, Sen. Amy Klobuchar anticipates the Senate Judiciary Committee will play an important role in the aftermath.

The panel is charged with confirming Comey’s successor, whom Trump told reporters could be named in a “fast decision” this week.

Klobuchar and Sen. Al Franken both sit on the Judiciary Committee, which recently heard testimony from Comey regarding the FBI’s probe into Russia’s ties to Trump’s presidential campaign. They and other Democrats have called for a special prosecutor to lead an independent investigation.

Klobuchar said she knew Comey when they were students in the University of Chicago Law School Class of 1985 and recalled that he had the respect of their classmates. They served on the law review and Klobuchar still has a picture of Comey from a Cubs game.

She said they've kept in touch over the years, as she served as Hennepin County attorney and followed Comey's lead on policies for felons in possession of guns while he was assistant U.S. Attorney in Richmond, Va. 

Klobuchar noted that she disagreed with how Comey handled the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, but never thought he should be fired. As a former prosecutor, Klobuchar questioned whether Americans wanted a system where someone could be fired for conducting an investigation.

“I really think this is a turning point for the criminal justice system,” she said.

A number of people are under consideration to replace Comey, including FBI director Andrew McCabe, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), former Justice Department Criminal Division Chief Alice Fisher and New York state judge and former U.S. Attorney in Manhattan Michael Garcia.

Klobuchar said the Senate Judiciary Committee wants to ensure the nominee will be insulated from political pressure.

“The key [is], will they feel that they are loyal to the law or loyal to the president?” she said.

A judiciary panel subcommittee headed by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is investigating Russia's efforts to interfere with American elections, as is the Senate Intelligence Committee. Klobuchar described the judiciary committee's oversight as especially important because it's more in the public eye, compared to the classified work of the intelligence panel.

She added: “The Judiciary Committee is going to continue to be very active here.”

Paulsen calls for independent investigation into Russian interference

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen called for an independent investigation into Russia’s interference in the presidential election following President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, going further than most GOP lawmakers in questioning a move that has roiled the Capitol over the last day.

“Maintaining public trust in the integrity of our elections as well as our institutions, such as the FBI, is of the utmost importance,” Paulsen said in a statement. “For 10 months, the FBI has been investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. The extraordinary decision to fire Director Comey definitely raises questions which must be answered.”

He added: “I believe these circumstances call for an independent investigation that the American people can trust with confidence.”

The Eden Prairie lawmaker is the only Republican in Minnesota’s congressional delegation to issue a statement calling for an independent probe. And he's one of just five Republicans in Congress to do so, according to a tally by the New York Times of lawmakers' reactions to Comey's firing.

Democrats have seized on the issue with vigor. In a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday, Sen. Al Franken said the timing and circumstances of Comey’s firing were “very suspicious” and politically motivated. In another floor speech, Sen. Amy Klobuchar said the firing cast doubt about the independence of any further investigation into foreign interference in the election. Other Minnesota Democrats are also calling for an independent prosecutor to conduct the investigation into Russia’s ties to Trump during the campaign, including Reps. Keith Ellison, Betty McCollum, Tim Walz and Rick Nolan.