WASHINGTON—In an interview this evening with Fox News’ Special Report with Bret Baier, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) discussed the firing of FBI Director James Comey. Here is the transcript of the interview:
Bret Baier: Mr. Speaker, thanks for being with us. I want to ask you what your initial reaction was when you heard the FBI Director James Comey was fired.
Speaker Ryan: Well, obviously firing an FBI director is no small thing and quite a serious matter. You know, I think the truth is James Comey, who is a worthwhile and dedicated public servant, I think he had just basically lost the confidence of a lot of Republicans and a lot of Democrats based upon his conduct, his actions, and some of the comments that he made. Most importantly, he lost the confidence of the president, and it is entirely within the president's role and authority to relieve him, and that's what he did.
Baier: Were you given a headsup?
Speaker Ryan: Right before it happened. He basically called me when I got off a flight to tell me he had made this decision. I also think if you take a look at the fact that he was losing confidence in the Justice Department, I think the president felt the right thing to do was to let him go, move on. I think what’s really important at this point now that we find a replacement very soon, somebody who is very qualified and capable so we can get that person up and running soon, and I think the other thing that's important at this point is to make sure that the professionals of the FBI know that their jobs are valuable and they have to keep doing what they're doing, do their jobs objectively and thoroughly.
I am pleased that the White House has said the work they were doing, and investigations they were doing yesterday, will continue today and tomorrow. I think it's important. I think the DOJ, Attorney General and Assistant Attorney General should make it clear to all of the people, the professional men and women at the FBI, that they should keep doing their jobs thoroughly and professionally, while we find a replacement. It's important the administration moves quickly with a capable replacement.
Baier: Mr. Speaker, you know it's not just Democrats who are raising a lot of concerns about this and about the timing of it. It's also Republicans. This is Senator Burr, chair of the senate Intel committee. . . . Your reaction to that?
Speaker Ryan: Well, I think the president lost patience and I think people in the Justice Department lost confidence in Director Comey himself. And I think the president was looking at a situation where you had senior Justice Department officials losing confidence and he does not want to see the FBI in disarray. He wanted to see the FBI up and running and moving well. And I think Director Comey kind of became an issue himself.
And so it obviously was in the president's authority and role to do this. I think he made an important command decision, and that decision that is in his right to do it. And now let's go forward. Let's get a capable person to replace him and let's just make sure that the men and women there at the FBI keep doing their jobs. That's the way I see it.
Baier: So a couple of more things on this, and just quickly. Senator McCain and a few others are calling for a special prosecutor. Obviously, Democrats are in lockstep...
Speaker Ryan: Yes. I don't think that's a good idea. First of all, we have three investigations going on right now. We have a House investigation by our Intelligence Committee, which is the appropriate committee to do that, I believe. And we have the Senate Intelligence Committee—you just played Richard Burr—doing an investigation. And you have the FBI investigating all things Russia. So I don't think that that's a good idea.
I think that the Intelligence Committee is the one that should do this because don't forget that the methods and sources of our intelligence gathering are also at play here and we have to be very sensitive so that we don't compromise that information, as well.
So I really do believe that these three investigations are the way to go. Let's get them done. Let's see them through. Let's go wherever the facts may lead. And I do think that Director Comey was compromised. Clearly, his superiors in the Justice Department felt that way. And the president made a presidential decision and removed him.
Baier: OK, and the last thing, how it happened, are you OK with all of that? Obviously, it's his prerogative to do it, but how it transpired—and then the images today out of the Oval Office, considering that the FBI director was leading a counterterrorism investigation about possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians, you had the Russian foreign minister and the U.S., the Russian ambassador to the U.S., who is obviously the focus of a lot of these investigations, including Mike Flynn and why the attorney general recused himself, in the Oval Office today. And these are Russian photographs coming out, not the White House press. Your reaction to that?
Speaker Ryan: Well, first of all, there has never been any evidence presented that President Trump had anything to do with any of this. So that's—I think it's really important—I think they mentioned at the testimony just the other day in the Senate. So that's point number one. So let's make sure that there's no innuendo improperly being made here.
The second point is, these investigations are continuing on. The people at the FBI who do the investigations are still there working and on the job. So I think that's just an important point to be made there, as well.
So, look, the way I look at this is let's keep these investigations going. That's what we've been doing. That's what we will continue to do. And I don't know all that led up to this decision. The administration, I'm sure, will make that clear, about the process that led to this, but also let's make sure we have a clear process going on from here. And that means find a suitable replacement soon, make sure that people do their jobs.
And I believe that the committees in Congress that are looking into all things Russia are the appropriate committees doing that. And they're doing their jobs. So we're just going to see where this goes.
Baier: And just to be clear, we say, when we report this, that there is no evidence of collusion. James Clapper has said that. But there is also an ongoing investigation that Sally Yates and others have not talked about.
Speaker Ryan: So the investigations haven't been concluded but—that's right. But I think it's really important to know that there have been no evidence presented in any of the stage of this that suggests that this collusion occurred. So I think it's really important that people know that.
But, yes, there's a lot of things that we're still looking at. We're looking at who did the unmasking of Mike Flynn. There are a lot of those questions that still have yet to be answered.
Baier: And do you think that had a part, the president was frustrated with the lack of progress on the unmasking and leak investigation?
Speaker Ryan: Oh, I can't speak to that. I can speak to the fact that the president saw an FBI director where people had lost confidence in him from both parties, including high senior officials at the Justice Department and he acted. And that's what a president can and should do.