Colorado gubernatorial candidates react to Comey firing along partisan lines

Author: Ernest Luning - May 10, 2017 - Updated: May 11, 2017

U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, an Arvada Democrat, declares he's running for governor of Colorado on Sunday, April 9, 2017, in Golden. (Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman)
U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, an Arvada Democrat, declares he’s running for governor of Colorado on Sunday, April 9, 2017, in Golden. (Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman)

Reaction among Colorado gubernatorial candidates to President Trump’s termination of FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday split along partisan lines, with Democrats expressing outrage and calling for an independent investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, while Republicans either declined to weigh in or said it was time to look ahead.

“Clearly (Donald Trump) is hiding something,” tweeted U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, an Arvada Democrat, shortly after the president abruptly fired Comey, who announced in March that the FBI was investigating possible links between the Trump campaign and Russian efforts to influence the election. “Now more than ever we need an independent special prosecutor to lead this investigation.”

In a lengthier statement, Perlmutter called the timing of Trump’s decision “concerning.”

“Despite Attorney General Jeff Sessions vowing to recuse himself from all Russia-related investigations, President Trump acted on a recommendation from AG Sessions to remove Director Comey — the very person that was leading an investigation into Russian interference into the 2016 election and President Trump’s ties to Russia,” Perlmutter said.

“This administration cannot be trusted to handle any part of this investigation, and they must be separated from any ongoing investigation immediately,” he continued. “It is now more important than ever that an independent special prosecutor is appointed to take over this investigation. The future of our democracy and the American people deserve for this process to be handled in a serious, non-political manner.”

Republican prosecutor George Brauchler, the 18th Judicial District attorney, said it looked like Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Ron Rosenstein — who recommended to Trump that Comey be fired in separate letters — had a basis for their conclusion but declined to pass further judgment on Trump’s decision.

“Apparently, the Department of Justice believed they had enough information from their investigation to recommend terminating the FBI director,” Brauchler told The Colorado Statesman on Wednesday. “Beyond that, I do not have enough information to weigh in on the president’s decision.”

The other Democrats who have declared they’re running for governor in next year’s election made points similar to Perlmutter’s.

“Firing a law enforcement professional in the midst of an investigation into your own administration’s conduct raises serious ethical questions,” said former state Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver. “We must demand an independent investigation into these allegations as the American people will be right to question the objectivity of any replacement the president names.”

Former State Treasurer Cary Kennedy was succinct.

“The American people will hold Donald Trump accountable for the truth,” she said. “The president isn’t above the law.”

Businessman Noel Ginsburg argued that the investigation into Russia’s role in the election should transcend partisan divides.

“The American people deserve to know if there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia that interfered with our election,” he said. “An independent, special prosecutor must be appointed immediately. I believe this is an issue all Coloradans can agree on.”

Republican Doug Robinson thanked Comey for his service and said it was important to name his replacement quickly.

“I and my campaign are 100-percent focused on Colorado issues,” Robinson said through a spokesman. “I appreciate Mr. Comey’s service to our country and hope we can move swiftly in identifying and hiring the most qualified candidate to fill his position and to lead the FBI forward.”

A spokesman for businessman and former state Rep. Victor Mitchell, R-Castle Rock, declined to comment, saying the matter was outside the statewide candidate’s purview.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, who has said he’s considering whether to run for governor, called it “absolutely vital” to establish an independent commission to “investigate the Russian connection” in a tweet on Tuesday afternoon soon after news of Comey’s ouster broke.

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. For nearly a decade, he was a senior political reporter and occasional editor at The Colorado Statesman before the 119-year-old publication merged with Colorado Politics in 2017.