WASHINGTON ― While Republicans debate which committees should probe the abrupt departure of President Donald Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn amid revelations over his contacts with Russia, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer is demanding a criminal probe of the whole affair.
“Gen. Flynn’s resignation is not the end of the story. It is merely the beginning,” Schumer told reporters on Capitol Hill after meeting with his caucus Tuesday.
Flynn quit his post after it was revealed that he hid the extent of his conversations with Russian officials, and reports emerged that the interactions were far more extensive.
“In the days and weeks ahead, the Trump administration has many serious questions to answer,” Schumer said. “These questions must be asked by independent and unbiased law enforcement officers. They must be answered truthfully by administration officials, and any attempt to lie or mislead must be countered with the full force of the law.”
Among the questions Schumer said he wants answered are whether someone in the White House or Trump’s campaign ordered Flynn to talk to the Russians, whether his talks were authorized, how extensive they were and why Flynn was not fired immediately when the White House learned of his activities.
Schumer insisted that a probe must be carried out by longtime professional law enforcers, and that Trump’s new attorney general, Jeff Sessions, must recuse himself because he was a part of Trump’s campaign and sat on Trump’s national security advisory panel with Flynn.
He did not specify the sort of investigation that he wants, or whether he would be satisfied by the sort of actions former Attorney General Loretta Lynch took in saying she would accept the decision of FBI Director James Comey when he was probing Hillary Clinton’s emails.
Schumer said his watchwords were that the probe be “independent, transparent and impartial.”
The Democratic leader also said Senate and House committee investigations would not suffice because they do not have prosecutorial powers.
“There are potential violations of law here, by Gen. Flynn and potentially others,” Schumer said. “What I am calling for is an independent investigation with executive authority to pursue potential criminal actions.”
No Republicans voiced support for criminal probes, but Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) had some of the same questions.
“Did they try to engage the Russians before they were in office? Was this part of a continuing pattern between the Trump people and Russia? Was there any legitimacy to the idea that the Russians had something against Gen. Flynn?” Graham told reporters.