Top Dem Accuses WH Of Obstruction Ahead Of Push For Special Russia Probe

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

The ranking member of the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday accused the Trump White House of “obstructing our investigation” of ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) made the charge in a presser with other top House Democrats, where he and the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff (D-CA), called for an independent commission to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election. House Democrats previously announced their intent to use a procedural maneuver to force an up-or-down vote in that chamber Wednesday on a bill that would establish an independent commission. The maneuver is unlikely to succeed, though, because it would force House Republicans to buck their leadership.

After reports Tuesday that President Donald Trump had urged then-FBI Director James Comey to end an investigation into fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Cummings observed “this perhaps provides us with an answer as to why we haven’t been able to get one single syllable from the White House.”

The Oversight Committee’s top Democrat then further Wednesday by saying that the White House was “obstructing” his committee’s investigation. He applauded committee Chair Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s (R-UT) threat to subpoena the FBI for Comey’s memo laying out Trump’s alleged request to nix the Flynn probe, but Cummings noted that same lever could have been used against the White House months ago—and should be used now.

“In March, just a month after the President allegedly pressured Director Comey to drop the Flynn investigation, Chairman Chaffetz and I sent a bipartisan letter to the White House requesting documents relating to General Flynn,” Cummings said. “But the White House completely refused.”

“The White House is obstructing our investigation, covering up for General Flynn, and refusing to provide a single document,” he said, reading from a prepared statement. He looked up from the text and added: “Not a single syllable. Zilch. Nothing.”

Cummings was one signatory on a letter, co-signed by every Democrat on the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees Tuesday, demanding from their Republican chairmen a joint investigation of the President and other top White House officials.

House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-CA) recounted Flynn’s history with Trump and called for both an independent commission and a independent counsel to look into Trump and his allies’ potential ties to Russia.

“The commission brings an independent body completely removed from political considerations to give the country the confidence of knowing that that body will follow the facts wherever they lead,” he said.

The independent counsel was necessary, Schiff argued, because “the independent commission doesn’t make prosecutorial decisions.” While he said career Justice Department prosecutors were no doubt qualified, he noted the public needed to have buy-in, too.

“Given all of the circumstances I’ve relayed just in this one case, I think the argument for independent counsel is quite profound,” Schiff said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously assistant editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.

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