WASHINGTON — The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee repeated his call Sunday for an independent probe of possible Russian ties with the Donald Trump campaign.
“There are enough questions that have now been called, that have been raised where I think the establishment of a commission would give the country a lot of confidence that at least one body was doing this in a way that was completely removed from any political considerations,’’ California Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said on CBS’ Face the Nation.
FBI Director James Comey confirmed last week that the agency is looking into possible Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election and whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, called the panel's probe into the allegations “the most important thing that I've ever done in my public life.
"As I get more and more into this, I'm going to double down on that statement because it's extraordinary,'' he said on NBC’s Meet the Press.
Warner said he’s open to an independent probe, but said there are hurdles to creating a commission. “If we could get an independent commission, I'm open to that," Warner said. “That means you've got to pass a bill. The president's got to sign it.”
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South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy, a Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee, dismissed the notion of an independent commission.
“Thank goodness we have one — it’s called the FBI,” he said on “Face the Nation.”
Gowdy called the FBI the “world’s premier law enforcement agency."
“It doesn’t get any more independent than that…,” he said. “Let Congress do its job, which is provide oversight over the intelligence community."
The Democratic call comes on the heels of recent dramatic events in which Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, briefed President Trump at the White House after seeing documents that he says identified U.S. citizens in the Trump transition being caught up in incidental surveillance of intelligence agency targets.
Nunes stunned reporters and his committee colleagues by holding a press conference right after that meeting.
Warner said Sunday he was “totally mystified by what Mr. Nunes has said.”
“I think it's fairly mystifying, if not outrageous, that he'd make these claims, then goes down and briefs the White House," Warner said on Meet the Press. “I know Adam Schiff, the lead Democrat, still wants to keep the investigation bipartisan. I don't think Mr. Schiff even knows today what those documents are."
Schiff tweeted early Sunday, “The events of this week only underscore need for an independent commission to conduct its own Russia investigation, along with Congress."
Gowdy defended the Nunes meeting at the White House, saying he understands the committee chairman briefed Trump on issues unrelated to the Russian investigation.
“If that’s a big deal in Washington, then we’ve sunk to a new low,’’ Gowdy said. “So if the commander-in-chief cannot be briefed by the chairperson of the House Intel Committee on a matter that has nothing to do with the FBI investigation then I don’t know what they can talk about."
Contributing: Bartholomew Sullivan