Donald Trump
FILE - In this May 10, 2017 file photo, President Donald Trump talks to reporters in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. Trump, in an apparent warning to his fired FBI director, said Friday, May 12, 2017, that James Comey had better hope there are no "tapes" of their conversations. Trump's tweet came the morning after he asserted Comey had told him three times that he wasn't under FBI investigation. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

By the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Republicans and Democrats calling for an independent investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia have it right. With President Donald Trump’s dismissal of FBI Director James B. Comey, only an outside investigation can carry the credibility that will earn the trust of the American people. This can no longer be left in the hands of the FBI or Trump’s Justice Department.

Trump’s explanation for the dismissal, tying it to the FBI probe into Hillary Clinton’s emails, makes little sense, given that Trump praised that very investigation on the campaign trail. The American people deserve a full explanation of why Trump came to believe that the FBI needed fresh leadership.

“While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau,” Trump wrote in his letter dismissing Comey.

As Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia put it to The New York Times, the letter “doesn’t pass any legitimate smell test.”

And why now? The timing is certainly suspect, raising the question of whether the FBI probe was getting too close to Trump for comfort.

Politico reported that Trump “had grown enraged by the Russia investigation, two advisers said, frustrated by his inability to control the mushrooming narrative around Russia. He repeatedly asked aides why the Russia investigation wouldn’t disappear and demanded they speak out for him. He would sometimes scream at television clips about the probe, one adviser said.”

Leaving that investigation in the hands of someone newly appointed by Trump and an FBI that may be intimidated by Comey’s dismissal raises too many doubts about the integrity of the investigation.

Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona said in a statement that he was “disappointed in the president’s decision,” adding that “I have long called for a special congressional committee to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. The president’s decision to remove the FBI Director only confirms the need and the urgency of such a committee.”

McCain and Warner are right. What’s needed are two things: A real explanation of why Comey was dismissed. And, more important, a thorough and independent investigation into the Russia ties. Anything less will only undermine the public’s trust in this administration.

This editorial appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Thursday. Send comments to editorial@therepublic.com.