U.S. Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer called on Tuesday for an independent probe of what he called potential criminal violations surrounding the resignation of national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Speaking to reporters in the U.S. Capitol, Schumer said law enforcement officers should question officials from President Donald Trump's campaign, transition team and administration staff, including Trump himself, about events leading up to Flynn's departure on Monday.
He said Flynn, and potentially other Trump officials, could have violated federal prohibitions against citizens negotiating with foreign governments or receiving gifts and other benefits without authorization.
"What I am calling for is an independent investigation with executive authority to pursue potential criminal actions," Schumer said. "There are potential violations of law here by General Flynn and potentially others."
Flynn quit after only three weeks in the job, following disclosures that he discussed U.S. sanctions on Russia with Moscow's ambassador to the United States before Trump took office and later misled Vice President Mike Pence about the conversations.
Schumer appeared unlikely to win support for such a probe from his Senate Republican colleagues, who expect the scandal to be investigated by the Senate Intelligence Committee.
"The Intelligence Committee is already looking at Russian involvement in our election ... it's highly likely they'd want to take a look at this episode. They have the jurisdiction to do it," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell told reporters separately.
Schumer welcomed any involvement by the Senate committee but said the panel lacked the prosecutorial powers needed to hold potential wrongdoers fully accountable.
He also said that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions should recuse himself from any probe of Flynn's resignation because of his political ties to Trump.
Schumer said career Justice Department investigators or an independent counsel could look into whether other Trump team members had contact with Russia and why the White House did not seek Flynn's resignation sooner.
"Any attempt to lie or mislead must be countered by the full force of the law," Schumer added. "His resignation raises more questions than it answers. And the American people deserve to know the truth."
(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Grant McCool and Peter Cooney)