ABBY MERGENMEIER, Capital News Service
JESS NOCERA, Capital News Service
MIA O’NEILL, Capital News Service
BRIANA THOMAS, Capital News Service
WASHINGTON (AP) — Maryland Democratic lawmakers whose committees have jurisdiction over foreign policy and investigations on Tuesday urged a probe into the resignation of national security adviser Gen. Michael Flynn and the full scope of the Trump administration’s dealings with Russia.
Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., told Capital News Service that Flynn’s communications with Russia requires a congressional probe.
“The first thing we need to do is have an independent commission and investigate what was done, why Russia did what it did, how it did what it did, what its intentions (are),” said Cardin, who is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, joined other House Democratic leaders in asking for an independent investigation of the Flynn controversy and Russian connections to Trump officials.
“What did the president know and when did he know it?” Cummings asked at a Capitol Hill press conference, echoing verbatim a question from the Watergate scandal in which President Richard Nixon ultimately was forced to resign.
Cummings is the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Cummings said that the Justice Department warned the White House counsel of Flynn’s correspondence with Russia three weeks ago. He also suggested that Republicans, in particular, needed to take a harder stance on the new administration’s potential links to the Russian government.
“Do you hear that? Do you hear the silence? This is the sound of House Republicans conducting no oversight of President Trump, zero,” Cummings said. “Three long weeks ago, 21 days ago. So why did the president say on Friday he did not know anything about Flynn’s calls with the Russian ambassador?”
Cardin told CNS that “it’s clear that Russia is attempting to continue to compromise on national security. Their M.O.is to try to get information, sensitive information, on key government officials and leaders and then use that to try and compromise their independence.”
“It’s not just General Flynn — what other contacts has Russia had with key individuals here in the United States?” the senator said. “Why were they so active in our national elections? We need to protect ourselves against Russia’s attacks on our democratic system of government.”
Flynn announced his resignation late Monday, after news broke that he’d failed to adequately brief Vice President Mike Pence on the true nature of his communications last December with the Russian ambassador to the United States regarding U.S. sanctions against Russia.
On Feb. 8, Cardin and seven other senators introduced legislation that would require congressional oversight on any decisions made by the Trump administration regarding Russian sanctions. Cardin said that the bill has seen increased bipartisan support since Monday night’s news.
“We acted in a unanimous fashion for Congressional review of the Iran nuclear agreement and Russia is equally important and I would hope we would have strong bipartisan support for an oversight function by the United States Congress,” Cardin said.
House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D- Mechanicsville, also called on Republican lawmakers to step up their scrutiny of Trump’s and his cabinet’s communications with Russia. He criticized some members of the GOP for their apparent reluctance to investigate the administration’s lack of action regarding Flynn’s situation over the last few weeks.
“I am deeply alarmed that the Trump administration took no action for weeks after being informed that General Flynn provided false information to the vice president and to the public about his communications with the Russian government,” Hoyer told CNS.
He added he was disappointed Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and chairman of the House oversight panel and Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, so far have declined to pursue the Flynn matter.
“Failure to further examine this matter is an abdication of the oath taken by members of Congress to protect and defend the Constitution,” Hoyer said.
He added: “The American people cannot allow our leaders, especially those charged with maintaining our national security, to be making secret deals with Putin and his cronies.”
Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Kensington, took to Twitter Monday night and throughout Tuesday afternoon, calling for “a complete investigation of all Russian assets & collaborators in the Trump administration.”
“Flynn’s resignation is a good 1st step,” Raskin tweeted on Monday night. “If colluding w/Russia on sanctions is unacceptable, what about colluding w/Russia on the campaign?”
“White nationalist Steve Bannon must go next,” Raskin wrote in a follow-up tweet Monday evening. “@POTUS has a staff infection & it’s time to drop all those threatening #NatSec & democracy.”
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