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Pelosi threatens to force vote on outside Russia probe

Pelosi threatens to force vote on outside Russia probe
© Victoria Sarno Jordan
House Democrats are eyeing plans to force a vote on the creation of an independent panel to investigate President Trump’s ties to Russia following the dismissal of FBI Director James Comey this week.
 
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Wednesday urged GOP leaders to bring the legislation to the floor next week when Congress returns to Washington following a recess. If they decline, as expected, Democrats will try to force a vote with a discharge petition.
 
“Speaker [Paul] Ryan [R-Wis.] must call up this legislation immediately upon our return next week,” Pelosi wrote Wednesday in a letter to the members of her caucus. “If Republicans continue to work to hide the truth from the American people, it will be necessary for Democrats to file a discharge petition to force a vote on the [legislation].”
 
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A handful of Republicans have joined Democrats in calling for an outside probe following Trump's decision Tuesday to fire Comey, who was leading the FBI's investigation into potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
 
Pelosi and Democrats have been pushing for months to create an independent, bipartisan panel to lead an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and any potential collusion between the Kremlin and Trump's aides.
 
Ryan and Republicans have refused those entreaties, arguing that the ongoing House and Senate Intelligence committee probes are sufficient.
 
By threatening a discharge petition, Pelosi and Democrats sense a swing in the debate, one that might pressure some Republicans to endorse the discharge petition or risk facing potential political backlash if they’re seen as protecting Trump. 
 
“Given Director Comey's confirmation of the Trump-Russia inquiry, the President’s actions raise questions about whether this dismissal was an attempt to undermine that investigation,” Pelosi wrote Wednesday.
 
“The fireworks at the Department of Justice demand that we remove the investigation from the Trump-appointed Justice Department leadership.”
 
Trump stirred a political whirlwind Tuesday evening in announcing the ouster of Comey, a Republican appointed by former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama: Voting rights bill must pass before next election The world's most passionate UFO skeptic versus the government Biden plans to host Obama for portrait unveiling that Trump skipped: report MORE in 2013 who was just three years into a 10-year term.
 
The move prompted an immediate backlash from scores of Democrats — and a handful of Republicans — who voiced concerns that his dismissal was designed to sink the FBI’s ongoing investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia. 
 
Trump and his team are vehemently denying any such link, saying Comey was let go for a series of missteps, including his handling of the investigation into Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe Memo: The center strikes back Democratic clamor grows for select committee on Jan. 6 attack White House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine MORE's use of a private email server as secretary of State, which resulted in him recommending no charges be brought.
 
“Very simply, he was not doing a good job,” Trump said Wednesday at the White House. 
 
But Democrats rejected that argument, noting that Trump had praised Comey for having the “guts” to reopen the agency’s investigation into Clinton’s emails days before the November election.
 
Democrats' legislation, sponsored by Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), would launch a new investigation into Russia’s election interference. Like the 9/11 Commission, the panel would consist of a bipartisan group of outside experts provided a full-time staff to empower a thorough dive.
 
The bill is endorsed by every House Democrat and one Republican: Rep. Walter Jones (N.C.). 
 
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has also advocated this year for an independent investigation. And since the Comey firing, several other Republicans have joined the push, including Reps. Barbara Comstock (Va.) and Justin AmashJustin AmashAmash warns of turning lawmakers like Cheney into 'heroes' Cheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP Biden: 'Prince Philip gladly dedicated himself to the people of the UK' MORE (Mich.). Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) is also supporting the creation of a new investigative panel, though one made up of congressional lawmakers. 
 
To force a vote through a discharge petition, the Democrats would need more than 20 Republicans to buck their leadership and sign on — no easy task in the polarized Capitol. But the Democrats were successful using that tactic to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank in 2015. And the Comey saga has given them new ammunition to make the debate uncomfortable for vulnerable Republicans. 
 
“If the President has nothing to hide,” Pelosi wrote, “then he should welcome the creation of a commission providing an independent investigation to remove all doubt of a coverup.”