Posted: 11:50 pm Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

Democrats demand broader focus in Congress on Trump-Russia ties 

By Jamie Dupree

Galvanized by the resignation of a top White House official and news reports on possible contacts between Donald Trump’s campaign for President and Russia, Democrats on Tuesday night demanded that GOP leaders in Congress back the creation of a blue ribbon panel to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 elections.

“The need for an independent commission to investigate grows more urgent by the hour,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), as Democrats tried to put as much public pressure as possible on the GOP.

After dominating the headlines for weeks after the November elections, the Russia-Trump story had faded since Mr. Trump was sworn into office – but it exploded in recent days, as National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was forced to resign Monday over his post-election contacts with the Russian Ambassador to the U.S.

“Russia is our enemy, not our friend,” said Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN), as Democrats pounced on the new Russia-Trump stories.

“This requires an independent investigation,” said Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA).

While many House Republicans weren’t leaping to review the matter, a number of Senate Republicans made clear that they wanted answers.

“We thank Gen. Flynn for his service, but there are serious questions that need to be answered,” said Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who has already called for hearings on Russia’s meddling in the 2016 elections.

For now, the investigation is staying in the Senate Intelligence Committee, after what seemed to be some pressure on that panel’s chairman, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) to broaden the committee’s review.

“I have confidence that the Intelligence Committee in a bipartisan way – we’re going to do this very seriously, and do it well,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).

But Democrats wanted to hear more.

“Republican silence on this matter is deafening,” said Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), as many GOP lawmakers simply avoided the issue on social media and in press releases, leaving the field almost entirely to Democrats.

In the House, the chairs of both the Intelligence and Oversight committees downplayed any idea of a rush into hearings about the Flynn resignation.

“It’s taking care of itself at this point,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), who had spent months going after Hillary Clinton in 2015 and 2016.

As for President Trump, he made clear on Friday morning that he doesn’t see any reason to waste time on probing ties to Russia:

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