Senate Democrats intensified efforts Wednesday to pressure Republicans who control the chamber to support the appointment of a special prosecutor for the probe into Russia’s alleged election meddling and ties to the Trump campaign, vowing to block President Trump’s appointees and apparently try to disrupt meetings and other official business.
Connecticut Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal said he would vote against the confirmation of any Trump appointee unless Republicans commit to appointing a special prosecutor.
Blumenthal spoke the morning after the president fired FBI Director James Comey, whose agency was investigating whether Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign colluded with Russia to defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.
“I'm hoping the outcry will prompt Republicans to join me,” Blumenthal added. “The American people want the truth uncovered. I am talking with my colleagues about what the strategy will be to prompt a special prosecutor.”
The Comey firing triggered calls from Democrats for a special prosecutor. They argue that the Trump administration cannot fairly or independently conduct such an investigation on its own president.
Such critics scored a significant victory in March when they forced Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from the Justice Department’s Russia probe.
However, with only 48 Senate votes, compared to the Republicans’ 52, Democrats have few if any opportunities to keep a Trump appointee from getting the 50 votes needed to win confirmation.
Right now, there are roughly 40 appointees formally awaiting Senate confirmation, with about 100 others yet to even enter the confirmation process.
On Wednesday, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, objected to a standard request to allow the Senate Judiciary Committee to meet about nominations, which resulted in the meeting being cut short.
Fox News asked Senate Democratic leaders whether they plan to continue with such tactics, but they did not respond.
California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein said early Wednesday that she plans to “work closely” with Blumenthal on the appointment of an independent prosecutor.
A Feinstein staffer told Fox News that the senator, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, was referring to legislation, not trying to block Trump appointees.
Feinstein says the legislation would be to “ensure that a truly independent prosecutor can be appointed” but has provided no specifics.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled Wednesday that he has no intentions of calling for -- or appointing -- a special prosecutor.
“Today, we’ll no doubt hear calls for a new investigation, which will only serve to impede the current work being done to not only discover what the Russians may have done [but] also to let this body and the national security community develop counter measures to see that it doesn’t happen again,” the Kentucky Republican said.
South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham said a special investigator isn’t needed for a counter-intelligence investigation.
“If it became a criminal investigation, then we'd have a discussion,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., suggested the Russian investigation probes were “getting too close to home” for Trump and called for a special prosecutor.
“If there was ever a circumstance that warranted a special prosecutor, it is now,” he said.
Trump said he fired Comey on the recommendations of Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
In a three-page memo released by the White House, Rosenstein argued that Comey mishandled two now-closed investigations into Clinton emails sent and received on a private server system while she was secretary of State.
Clinton supporters say the probes largely contributed to her loss to Trump.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday that the adminstration was "very confident" that Rosenstein could now lead the Russia probe.
Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine acknowledged Wednesday that Senate Democrats cannot appoint a special prosecutor because Republicans control Congress.
“We can't do that as a minority,” he said. “But we can insist upon it. And we think we'll have the American public strongly behind us.”
He declined to say what congressional Democrats might do to force the GOP to appoint a special prosecutor but said, “There are things we are already doing,” including the Senate Intelligence Committee’s probe on the Russian matter.