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The Harvard College Democrats and the Harvard Republican Club denounced President Donald Trump’s decision to fire James B. Comey, former director of the FBI, in an unusual joint statement Friday.
“Despite our ideological differences, we share serious concerns about this termination in light of Director Comey’s role within the ongoing investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election,” the students’ statement reads.
Trump abruptly dismissed Comey on Tuesday, shocking Democrats and Republicans alike and prompting turmoil in Washington. Comey was in the middle of leading a criminal investigation into whether Trump’s campaign advisers colluded with Russian government officials to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
In an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt Thursday, Trump said he fired Comey in part because “this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story."
In their statement, members of the College Democrats and the Republican Club took particular issue with Trump’s reasoning.
“There is a significant difference between firing someone for substandard job performance and firing someone for political purposes,” the statement reads. “Although the Trump administration may have had cause for the former, we are concerned by news reports and public comments from the President that indicate it may be the latter.”
“Not since Watergate has a president dismissed the leading figure in an investigation pertaining to himself,” the statement continues.
The Harvard Republicans and Democrats go on to argue that, irrespective of Trump’s true motives for firing Comey, potential “Russian meddling” in the 2016 presidential election threatens the wellbeing of the United States.
“We cannot tolerate any actions, intentional or not, that would undermine or compromise a thorough investigation,” the statement reads.
The two groups also called on members of Congress to request “an independent investigation and special prosecutor” to look into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.
Kent Haeffner ’18, the president of the Harvard Republican Club, said members of the Republican Club and the College Democrats have been working on their announcement for the past two days. He added that, during his three years as a member of the Republican Club, the two groups have never before joined together to issue a statement.
Haeffner said he hopes the joint declaration demonstrates to Harvard affiliates and to the nation at large that it is possible to “come together in a bipartisan fashion to get to the bottom of the truth.”
“This is an issue that should transcend party. The Russian interference in our election is something that we should all be concerned about and want to figure out the truth of,” Haeffner said in an interview Friday.
Sharon Yang ’18, the president of the College Democrats, said she agreed with Haeffner and added that she thinks members of Congress could stand to learn from the two student groups’ example.
“Here at Harvard, we have a pretty good relationship with the Harvard Republican Club, we respect HRC,” she said. “That is definitely something I wish we saw more of on Capitol Hill.”
This is not the first time the Republican Club has issued a statement strongly criticizing Trump. In August 2016, the club made headlines when it announced it would not support then-Republican nominee Trump, calling the business mogul a “threat to the survival of the Republic.”
The two groups’ statement concludes with a plea for bipartisan cooperation going forward.
“We will be watching closely as events unfold, and we hope to see a strong, bipartisan stand for democracy from our elected representatives,” the statement reads.
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