Pelosi wants independent commission on Russia despite special counsel appointment

Pelosi wants independent commission on Russia despite special counsel appointment
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) maintained Wednesday that an independent commission is the best way to investigate Russia's role in the 2016 election after the Justice Department announced a special counsel to oversee the FBI's probe.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller to oversee the agency's investigation of how Russia tried to influence the election and any links with President Trump's campaign.

Pelosi and other Democrats praised the move as a sign that the investigation would be led by an independent actor. 

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But Pelosi said in a statement that a bipartisan commission would offer more assurance to the public of a truly independent investigation free from influence from the Trump administration.

While calling Mueller a “respected public servant of the highest integrity,” Pelosi said that “a special prosecutor is the first step, but it cannot be the last.”

“Director Mueller will still be in the chain of command under the Trump-appointed leadership of the Justice Department,” Pelosi said. “He cannot take the place of a truly independent, outside commission that is completely free from the Trump Administration’s meddling.”

Earlier Wednesday, House Democrats initiated a procedure to try to force a vote on legislation that would create an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate Russia’s role in the presidential election. 

The procedure, known as a discharge petition, would require a majority of signatures and couldn’t come up for a vote until late July at the earliest under House rules.

At least 24 Republicans would have to cross party lines and endorse the discharge petition with all Democrats in order to move it forward.

So far only one Republican, Rep. Walter Jones (N.C.), has signed the discharge petition. Jones and Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashHouse votes to crack down on undocumented immigrants with gang ties GOP lawmaker taunts House conservatives: Trump’s base is not ‘small faction of obstructionists’ Overnight Finance: GOP plans to unveil tax framework in late September | Critical stretch for Trump tax team | Equifax CEO called to testify | Sanders unveils single-payer bill MORE (R-Mich.) had both co-sponsored the original underlying bill.

A handful of Republicans, like Reps. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) and Mike Simpson (Idaho), had come out in favor earlier Wednesday of either appointing a special prosecutor or establishing an independent commission. They began endorsing the ideas in the aftermath of a New York Times report Tuesday night that Trump had pressured ousted FBI Director James Comey to stop investigating former national security adviser Michael Flynn's ties to Russia.

Comey documented the interactions in a memo, according to the Times, and has been asked to testify before the Senate Intelligence and House Oversight committees.