A combination photo shows U.S. President Donald Trump (L) in the House of Representatives in Washington, U.S., on February 28, 2017 and FBI Director James Comey in Washington U.S.
WASHINGTON 10 May 2017: President Donald Trump defended his firing of FBI Director James Comey on Wednesday, fighting a storm of criticism that the ouster was aimed at blunting an agency probe into his presidential campaign's possible collusion with Russia to sway the 2016 election.
The Republican president's abrupt move on Tuesday stunned Washington and was swiftly condemned by Democrats and by some in his own party. Senior Democrats pressed for an independent investigation into the Russia issue.
In a series of posts on Twitter on Wednesday morning, Trump sought to explain his move and lambasted his critics.
"Comey lost the confidence of almost everyone in Washington, Republican and Democrat alike. When things calm down, they will be thanking me," he said. "The Democrats have said some of the worst things about James Comey, including the fact that he should be fired, but now they play so sad!" he said.
The Trump administration said on Tuesday Comey's firing was over his handling of an election-year FBI probe into then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server during her time as secretary of state.
Many Democrats have criticized Comey's management of that investigation, but they sharply questioned the timing of his dismissal, given that Trump could have acted soon after taking office on Jan. 20 and that he has repeatedly criticized the FBI and congressional probes into alleged Russian involvement in the election.
Republicans control both chambers of Congress, and a growing number of Republicans also expressed doubts over Trump's move. However, the Senate majority leader, Republican Mitch McConnell, ridiculed Democrats' criticism, saying they were "complaining about the removal of an FBI director who they themselves repeatedly and sharply criticized."
On the Senate floor, McConnell also dismissed Democratic calls for the Justice Department to appoint a special prosecutor to look into Moscow's role in the 2016 election and possible ties between Trump associates and Russia. McConnell said a new investigation would "only serve to impede" existing probes such as one under way in the Senate intelligence committee.
The Senate's minority leader, Democrat Chuck Schumer, said Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein should appoint a special prosecutor, adding, "If there was ever a time when circumstances warranted a special prosecutor, it is right now."
Schumer also called on McConnell to hold closed and potentially classified briefings with all U.S. senators to question Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Rosenstein.