Senate Dem fears White House 'cover-up' of Russia ties

Senate Dem fears White House 'cover-up' of Russia ties
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Senate Minority Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenate Dems petition Saudi king to release dissidents, US citizen GOP moves to rein in president's emergency powers Senate votes to confirm Neomi Rao to appeals court MORE (D-Ill.) says he fears the White House might try to hide links between President Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia.

“The downfall does not come from the crime, it comes from the cover-up, and that’s what we’re dealing with now,” he told Bloomberg Monday.

“We need to know if anyone in the Trump campaign had any direct conversations with someone from Russia,” Durbin added. "It’s hard to imagine how some of these leaks could have been so conveniently timed if there wasn’t coordination.”

Noting the allegations that Russia interfered in last year's election, Durbin said the situation cries out for an independent commission and a special prosecutor.

“It has to reach a point where we have public sentiment strong enough that we launch an independent, transparent investigation of what the Russians did to us,” he said. "Think [the] 9/11 [commission].”

Durbin is a former member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is leading a bipartisan investigation into Russia. He said the panel is not built for public transparency, as it often conducts its business behind closed doors to protect sensitive intelligence. 

The Illinois Democrat added former Secretary of State Colin Powell, retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor or others like them could lead an independent commission instead.

Reports emerged earlier this month that aides and allies from Trump’s 2016 bid were in recurring contact with senior Russian intelligence officials.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer earlier Monday dismissed calls for a special prosecutor to probe Russian meddling in last year’s presidential race generally.

“I guess my question would be: A special prosecutor for what?” he said during his daily press briefing. "We have now for six months heard story after story about unnamed sources say same thing over and over again and nothing has come from it.”

“So the question becomes at some point, what do you need to further investigate if there is nothing that has come out? How many times do you have to come to the same conclusion before you take the answer?”