Cardin wants independent commission to probe Flynn, Russia contacts

Cardin wants independent commission to probe Flynn, Russia contacts

The leading Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is reiterating his call for an independent commission to investigate Russia’s election interference, saying that the body should also probe contact between Trump administration officials and Russia.

Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinThe Hill's 12:30 Report Dems give muted praise to Pompeo-Kim meeting Key Dem to oppose Pompeo nomination MORE (D-Md.) told The Hill that a commission should look at the contact between former national security adviser Michael Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, as well as any other connections between the Trump administration and Russian officials.

“Flynn is clearly part of the Russian connection to our election process,” Cardin said following an appearance at the Center for American Progress in Washington.

Flynn resigned from his position late Monday, after reports surfaced that he discussed U.S. sanctions with the Russian ambassador ahead of Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpIG investigating Comey memos over classified information: report Overnight Defense: Congress poised for busy week on nominations, defense bill | Trump to deliver Naval Academy commencement speech | Trump administration appeals decision to block suspected combatant's transfer Top Pruitt aid requested backdate to resignation letter: report MORE’s inauguration despite public denials by administration officials, including Vice President Pence.

In his resignation letter, Flynn disclosed that he had given “incomplete information” to Pence and others about his telephone calls with the ambassador. The FBI has been looking into Flynn’s contact with the Russian official.

“It’s not so much about what he did or didn’t do, it’s why these connections were being made and what was Russia’s motivation. It’s not so much Mr. Flynn’s motivations, but Russia’s motivations,” Cardin said Tuesday morning. “I am not anxious to hold him accountable for misleading the vice president. That doesn’t concern me as much as to why the Russian ambassador was doing what he was doing.”

Cardin and four other Democratic senators introduced legislation in early January to create an independent, nonpartisan commission with full-time staff to investigate Russian interference in the presidential election, similar to the body set up following the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The intelligence community has concluded that Russia used cyber attacks and disinformation to undermine U.S. democracy and damage Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPaltry wage gains, rising deficits two key tax reform concerns Trump pressed Sessions to fire FBI agents who sent anti-Trump texts: report DNC sues Russia, Trump campaign and WikiLeaks over alleged election interference MORE, Trump’s opponent, at the direction of President Vladimir Putin. Trump has been skeptical of the intelligence community’s findings.

Cardin said Tuesday that the proposed commission should also look into “whether there has been any other effort to compromise any of our key people” beyond the contact between Flynn and the Russian ambassador.

“We know Russia does that freely of business leaders. Have they done that with anyone else?” the senator added.

Cardin indicated that he believes the bill establishing the commission would have broad support, but said Republicans would need to put pressure on leadership to put it to a floor vote.