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The Journal Gazette

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Monday, May 15, 2017 1:00 am

Banks speaks out

Congressman criticizes explanations for Comey firing

The majority of congressional Republicans have been unquestioningly supportive, neutral or silent as President Donald Trump abruptly dismissed James Comey and the administration struggled to get the story straight as to why the FBI director had been fired. A minority of GOP representatives and senators acknowledged questions their Democratic colleagues and many other Americans were raising about the timing of Comey's removal.

One of them was Jim Banks, the freshman congressman from northeast Indiana. In an interview with NPR Wednesday, Banks emphasized he supports Trump's decision to fire Comey, who Banks said mishandled investigations during the election and has compounded those mistakes with other “missteps” this year.

But Banks also told interviewer Robert Siegel “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.”

Banks also said he believes the FBI's investigation into “serious questions and allegations” about Russian activities during last year's U.S. election should move forward.

In an interview with NBC News Thursday, Trump discussed the motivations behind his decision, though the motivations he gave seemed at odds with earlier statements he, Vice President Mike Pence and other members of the administration had made about the firing.

Speaking to the Summit City South Rotary Club Friday, Banks doubled down on his criticism, saying he believes the president owes Americans a better explanation. “It's being handled very poorly, and that has continued today,” he said.

Banks, a former state senator and a naval reservist who has served in Afghanistan, is new to Congress, an institution where unseasoned Democrats and Republicans often fall into line behind their party's leaders. Indeed, since the Columbia City Republican took office in January, he has voted to support the Trump administration 96.6 percent of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight.com. 

But anyone who expected him to demonstrate uncritical allegiance to the White House was disabused of that notion last week.