A growing number of House Republicans are breaking with President Donald Trump and calling for an independent investigation into the alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
“With respect to the highly politicized Russia investigation, I would like to see it independently investigated,” Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., one of three California Republicans who have called for an independent probe.
It’s a striking position for McClintock, of Elk Grove, given that he represents a solidly red congressional district where Trump trounced Democrat Hillary Clinton by 15 percentage points in the November presidential election. McClintock said he also wants investigations into several actions taken during the Obama administration – but it is Trump and Russia that’s roiling Congress.
Momentum for independent action is growing rapidly in Congress, though usually in Republican-held districts that Democrat Hillary Clinton won last year. Democrats need a net gain of 24 House seats next year to win control of the chamber.
An increasing number of Republicans say an outside probe of Trump and Russia is needed. It was impossible to get an actual count, but the growing concern was evident throughout the Capitol.
Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich, took it further Wednesday and said it would be grounds for impeachment if the reports are true that Trump attempted to stop an FBI investigation into Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., a Republican deputy whip, told CNN's "New Day" that it's time for Congress to consider the idea of a special prosecutor or an independent commission. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., said Comey’s testimony before Congress is “an absolute necessity.”
Republicans, though, rejected an effort by California Rep. Eric Swalwell, a Democrat from the San Francisco Bay area, to force consideration of an independent commission. Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C. was the only Republican to vote for the measure.
And House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., urged patience.
“We need the facts,” he told reporters.
Others want the facts, but in a more independent forum. Two vulnerable Southern California Republicans – Reps. Darrell Issa of Vista and Steve Knight of Palmdale – joined McClintock in calling for an independent investigation. Clinton beat Trump in both their districts and they are top targets for in next year’s midterm election.
Knight said he wants a special prosecutor to take over the FBI’s investigation.
“There is so much conflicting information from many sources. Americans deserve the opportunity to learn the truth,” Knight said.
Bryan Caforio who is running against Knight, sent out a fundraising email for his campaign saying “chip in now to demand a special prosecutor.”
Most of California’s 14 Republicans in the U.S. House remain cautious on the calls for an independent prosecutor to probe the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
Rep. David Valadao, who represents a San Joaquin Valley district where Clinton beat Trump by 15 percentage points, was careful not to say much on the issue.
“As we continue to gather facts regarding the intelligence information shared with Russian officials, I encourage this administration to disclose as much information as possible,” Valadao said.
Northern California Republican Rep. Doug LaMalfa said he doesn’t see the need for a special prosecutor.
“The congressman supports the bipartisan Oversight Committee’s work and believes that the committee is the appropriate body to look into the issue,” said Parker Williams, spokesman for the Republican from Richvale.
Former FBI Director Jim Comey reportedly wrote a memo alleging that Trump tried to shut down an investigation into Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser. McClintock said he wants to see the memo and hear from Comey before passing judgment.
“The allegations arise out of a conversation that is said to have occurred on February 14. If Comey believed this was an obstruction of justice, why didn't he act on it when it occurred three months ago?” McClintock asked.
“The fact this allegation emerged just days after Trump fired him for cause is suspicious,” he said. “I would want to see corroboration and also to know the context of the conversation. There's a big difference between expressing sympathy for Flynn and issuing a presidential directive to drop an investigation.”
Lindsay Wise contributed to this article.