Recent events in the nation’s capital have many Americans feeling like they’re riding a never-ending political roller coaster. Less than a week after House Republicans voted to dismantle Barack Obama’s signature health care law, President Donald Trump abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey. Then, on Wednesday, Trump met with Russia’s top diplomat amid ongoing FBI and congressional investigations of Russian meddling in last year’s presidential election and possible contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia. As voters processed the latest news out of Washington they remained divided along party lines with Republicans and Trump supporters seeing Comey’s dramatic firing as necessary and Democrats viewing it with suspicion.
‘HE’LL GET RID OF THEM’
Ronnie Vaca, a 36-year-old who works in the biotechnology industry, said he disagrees with Trump’s decision to fire Comey and thinks it’s a cover-up to keep investigators from uncovering evidence of Russian interference in the presidential election. ”If he doesn’t get the answer he wants, he’ll get rid of them and put in someone who gives him what he’s looking for,” said Vaca, an Army veteran from Orange County, California, who voted for Hillary Clinton.
COMEY FIRING ‘NECESSARY’
Harding Aslinger, a 70-year-old retiree who was visiting St. Louis’s Gateway Arch from Chattanooga, Tennessee, called Comey’s firing ”necessary for the betterment of the government.” Aslinger said he has ”total confidence” in the president and his administration.
IT’S NOT THE `FEDERAL BUREAU OF PROSECUTION’
Financial adviser John Carey said he thinks Comey should have resigned or been fired last July for overstepping his bounds in the investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s emails. The 65-year-old from Kansas City, Missouri, said he believes Comey should have turned the facts over to the Department of Justice, rather than stating his own opinions about the case. ”It’s the Federal Bureau of Investigation, not the Federal Bureau of Prosecution,” said Carey, who didn’t vote for president last year.
COMEY’S FIRING AKIN TO ‘THE BACHELOR’
Amber Jordan, a 34-year-old marketing director from Little Rock, Arkansas, said she thinks personnel changes are to be expected with any new administration. She didn’t think anyone, Comey included, should be surprised by Trump’s decision. ”He doesn’t like to work with people who don’t like to work for him,” she said. Jordan expected Comey would be fired, but said the way Trump announced the termination was akin to how someone would be dismissed on the reality TV show ”The Bachelor.” ”You don’t just fire someone live on the air,” Jordan said. ”That’s not the way the president should handle things.
Oklahoma City bookstore owner Charles Martin supported Hillary Clinton in November, but he’s tried to remain hopeful during the Trump presidency. But Trump’s latest move has him worried. Firing the FBI director amid an ongoing investigation into possible contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia is un-American and something expected in a ”strong-arm regime,” said Martin, 40. ”What is unsettling about this is it looks like we might be getting to the end of what’s been a national embarrassment and starting to approach the cusp of a national tragedy,” Martin said. ”Ten years down the road, are we going to be looking back at this as, ‘I can’t believe that this was a thing that we did – how funny?’ Or is this going to be, `Wow this is where it all started falling apart?”
‘WE NEED TO KNOW’
Like other Clinton supporters, Cheri Zettel found the timing of Comey’s firing suspicious because of the Russia probe. She wants a special prosecutor to take over the investigation. ”They may find nothing, and that’s fine too. But we need to know,” she said. Zettel, 57, of Dallas, said the U.S. ”can’t have constant influence in our elections, or we’ve lost our democracy.” She added: ”I’m not thrilled that Comey had so much influence on our election … but nobody was looking at firing him when it was all about Hillary Clinton.”
IT HAPPENED ‘AT SUCH A VULNERABLE TIME’
Mary Smith, a retired homemaker and registered independent who voted for Hillary Clinton, said she’s still trying to make sense of it all. ”I don’t understand it,” said Smith, 71, of Schenectady, New York, as she waited at the Albany airport. ”It seems at such a vulnerable time when he’s trying to investigate the Russian connection to Flynn, that this action would be taken.”
‘I DON’T LET THINGS UPSET ME TOO MUCH’
When it comes to Trump, Tom Stump is taking the long view. Stump, 70, who works at a car dealership in Hamburg, Pennsylvania, said he’s not yet formed an opinion about Trump’s firing of Comey, preferring to let the story develop. ”I keep an eye on it but at this stage in my life, nothing’s really shocking. It’s a change in politics, a new president with new ideas.”
Stump did not vote in the November election but called himself a Trump supporter. A Civil War buff and Vietnam veteran, he said, ”America’s very flexible and she’s always been very flexible, so I think she can tolerate just about anything. I really believe that. … Sometimes adversity is a good thing in American life.”
Rubinkam reported from Hamburg, Pennsylania. Tamara Lush in Bartow, Florida, Jim Salter in St. Louis, Jamie Stengle in Dallas, Adam Kealoha Causey in Oklahoma City, Mary Esch in Albany, New York, Angie Wang in Phoenix and Amanda Myers in Los Angeles contributed to this report.