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Jack Lew: Comey's firing raises questions about who has Trump's ear on big decisions

  • The decision to fire Comey does not help the standing of the United States on the world stage, Jack Lew says.
  • "The important thing here is, is there going to be an independent investigation [and] how will the American people have confidence that Russia's involvement in our election will be fully investigated?" Lew says.

Jack Lew, Obama's Treasury secretary and White House chief of staff, said Wednesday he believes President Donald Trump made the final decision to fire FBI Director James Comey.

As a former White House insider, Lew told CNBC's "Squawk Box" decisions of this magnitude are made by the president. He said there have been "questions from Day 1" about who has Trump's ear and who's advice he's following. "That's not in and of itself unusual," he added. "It gets resolved at the top."

Comey's firing has not helped the standing of the United States on the world stage, Lew said. "The rhetoric coming in was very jarring, not just to people here but to people around the world," he argued.

"There are challenges to make sure the U.S. retains its leadership role in the world," Lew said. "As policy is developed it's important to show the U.S. can be relied on to be a stable source of economic and security strength in the world."

Domestically, Lew said, "The important thing here is, is there going to be an independent investigation [and] how will the American people have confidence that Russia's involvement in our election will be fully investigated?"

Calling Comey's firing "Nixonian," Democrats were quick to call for a special prosecutor over alleged Russian election interference and possible Trump campaign ties to Russia.

The "Nixonian" comparison refers to the so-called Saturday Night Massacre in 1973 when then-President Richard Nixon fired of Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox. The attorney general and deputy attorney general at the time resigned after refusing to dismiss Cox.

The Trump Justice Department said Tuesday's dismissal of Comey, whose agency was conducting an investigation over the Russia questions, was over the mishandling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.

The administration said the FBI's Russia probe was not a factor in the FBI director's dismissal, but during the final days of the election, Trump had praised Comey's announcement about the Clinton probe. Clinton blames Comey's announcement for her loss to Trump.

Republicans on Capitol Hill were divided. For example, Sens. Lindsey Graham and John Cornyn defended the move. While Sens. Bob Corker and John McCain were more skeptical. McCain on Tuesday called for an independent counsel to lead the Russia probe.

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