Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) insisted on Thursday that Republicans wouldn’t be calling for the impeachment of a Democratic president accused of the same actions as President Trump.
As fired FBI Director James Comey was before a Senate committee, accusing the president of trying to influence a criminal investigation, Ryan dismissed the notion from a reporter at his weekly Capitol press conference that Republicans would be suggesting impeachment at this point.
“No. I don’t think we would, actually. I don’t think that’s at all the case,” Ryan said.
Ryan expressed sympathy for Trump, pointing to Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee detailing that he told Trump on multiple occasions that he was not personally under investigation.
“What I got out of that testimony is, we now know why he was so frustrated when the FBI director told him three times there’s no investigation of him, yet that speculation was allowed to continue,” Ryan said.
The Speaker suggested that Trump’s behavior might be a result of not having experience in government before becoming president. The night before, Ryan said on MSNBC that it was “obviously” inappropriate for Trump to ask Comey for his loyalty over a private dinner at the White House.
“The president’s new at this. He’s new to government. So, he probably wasn’t steeped in the long-running protocols that establish the relationships between [the Department of Justice], the FBI and White Houses. He’s just new to this,” Ryan said.
But Ryan acknowledged later: “I’m not saying it’s an acceptable excuse. It’s just my observation.”
A handful of Democrats have already begun suggesting Trump should be removed from office, though Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have so far kept their distance.
Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) announced this week that he is formally drafting articles of impeachment. He argued that Trump’s decision to fire Comey over the FBI’s investigation into possible campaign connections to the Russian government’s election interference amounts to obstruction of justice.
“Obstruction of justice by the President is the problem,” Green said Tuesday night in a statement. “Impeachment by Congress is the solution.”
Comey alleged in his testimony before the Senate Intelligence panel that Trump pressured him to drop the FBI’s investigation into Michael Flynn, who was the national security adviser before being forced to resign for misleading the public about his interactions with the Russian ambassador.
Trump’s team has disputed the allegations.
In his dramatic appearance on Thursday, Comey accused the Trump administration of trying to “defame” him and the FBI during its shifting rationales for his sudden firing last month.
The White House initially cited Comey’s handling of the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of State as the reason for his firing. But Trump himself later said in an interview with NBC News that the Russia investigation was a factor in his decision to fire Comey.
“The administration chose to defame me and, more importantly, the FBI by saying that the organization was in disarray, that it was poorly run,” Comey said.
“Those were lies, plain and simple.”