Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday called for an independent, outside investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn in the wake of his resignation over unauthorized sanctions talks with Russian officials.
“There needs to be an independent and transparent investigation, because the White House knew for weeks that General Flynn misled the vice president and that his discussion about sanctions with the Russian government could potentially compromise our national security, because it was subject to blackmail,” Schumer said at a news conference. “And yet, they let him stay on for weeks, present at and participating in the highest level of national security discussions until those reports were made public.”
The New York Democrat called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a staunch Trump supporter during the 2016 campaign, to recuse himself.
Schumer said Sessions “was a senior adviser in the Trump campaign, the first senator to endorse the president’s campaign, and nominated him at the Republican convention in Cleveland. … Those facts and the Department of Justice’s own rules disqualify Attorney General Sessions from running this investigation.”
Schumer’s Republican counterpart, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the chamber’s investigation into Flynn should remain in the realm of the Senate Intelligence Committee, chaired by Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.).
“The Intelligence Committee is already looking at Russian involvement in our election. They have broad jurisdiction over our intelligence community, writ large. They can look at whatever they choose to,” McConnell told reporters on Capitol Hill.
Earlier Tuesday, Burr pledged to “go where intelligence and the agencies lead us” during a scrum with reporters at the Capitol.
McConnell told reporters that it was “highly likely” that Flynn would have to testify before Burr’s panel. But on the other side of the Capitol, House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said that, for now, he would leave the decision up to the retired general.
“If he wants to he can, but we don’t even have the basic facts, we don’t even know who listened to the phone calls of an American citizen,” the California Republican said, alluding to a consistent complaint he had about the leaks of Flynn’s conversations that came up repeatedly in a roughly 20-minute scrum with reporters on Capitol Hill.
Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, said earlier Tuesday on MSNBC he thinks the panel will need to bring Flynn to testify in the committee to investigate the nature of his contacts with the ambassador.
Nunes’ committee is the sole House panel currently investigating Russia’s interference in the U.S. election. That probe includes any potential contacts between the campaigns and the Kremlin.
When pressed by reporters, Nunes said Flynn’s contacts with Russia “falls under the umbrella of Russian interference.”
Schiff and Nunes also split on the issue of reviewing the transcripts of Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador.
“I can tell you, we were in the process of requesting the transcripts or recordings of these conversations,” Schiff said on MSNBC, adding that the House Intelligence Committee should be briefed on them.
“No I don’t,” Nunes said when asked if he wanted to see the transcripts. “You guys used to criticize us for listening to Americans’ phone calls, now you want us to get transcripts of Americans’ phone calls.”
This story was updated to include comments from Schiff and Nunes.