Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Sunday that he would support an effort to block any nominee to lead the FBI until an independent prosecutor is named to oversee an investigation into Russia’s interference into last year’s presidential election, as well as the possibility of collusion between the Kremlin and individuals with ties to President Donald Trump or his campaign.
The notion that Democrats might refuse to vote on any nominee put forward by Trump to be the bureau’s director was first floated last week by a handful of lawmakers including Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). Schumer, who spoke Sunday morning to CNN’s “State of the Union,” is the highest-profile Democrat to back such a plan.
“Yes, I think there are a lot of Democrats who feel that way,” Schumer told host Jake Tapper when asked whether he would support a move to block any potential FBI director until an independent investigator is named. “We will have to discuss it as a caucus, but I would support that move, because who the FBI director is, is related to who the special prosecutor is.”
The president’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey last week raised eyebrows from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, especially given the FBI’s ongoing investigation into Trump’s campaign. The president did little to calm concerns about Comey’s dismissal when he told NBC News in an interview that he weighed the Russia investigation, which he called a “made-up story,” as he made up his mind to fire the FBI director.
As the Senate’s minority party, Democrats would have little power to truly block a new FBI director, whose nomination would need only a simple majority to clear the bar of confirmation. But a partisan battle over the head of the FBI would be new territory for the Senate, which typically confirms the bureau’s director with essentially universal bipartisan support. (Comey was confirmed by a vote of 93-1 in 2013.)
Schumer predicted that the plan would enjoy “broad support” among Senate Democrats, as well as among the American people.
“To have that special prosecutor, people would breathe a sigh of relief, because then there would be a real independent person overlooking the FBI director,” the New York Democrat said. “The key here, of course, is getting some of our Republican colleagues to join us. We’re hoping. We’re waiting. We understand it’s difficult, but I think patriotism and the needs of this country demand it.”