“There’s a lot of business we’ve got to be doing right now that is unrelated to this, and I don’t think we should have an overall rule about not doing business,” Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia said in an interview, adding: “We can chew gum and walk at the same time.”
Comey’s abrupt firing on Tuesday evening has created uncertainty over the fate of the FBI’s investigation into interference in the 2016 election. In March, Comey publicly confirmed that the bureau is probing Russian involvement in the election as well as “the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.”
Following Comey’s dismissal, Democrats seized on the fact that the president had fired the person heading up the election investigation. “The president of the United States just fired the person who was investigating his campaign, which should set off alarm bells across the country,” Senator Cory Booker said in a statement immediately after the news broke.
But it’s unclear, how far Democrats are willing to go to press for an independent prosecutor, or whether lawmakers will coalesce behind a specific course of action in the days and weeks ahead.
In response to the FBI director's dismissal, Senate Democrats took the unusual step on Wednesday of withholding the consent necessary for committee meetings to take place two hours after the Senate had convened for the day. As a result, Democrats effectively interrupted routine business for six committees, including the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the Judiciary Committee, Veterans Affairs Committee, and Small Business Committee.
“We clearly have the option of slowing down the proceedings of the Senate if there’s not proper response from Republicans,” Democratic Senator Chris Murphy told The Hill, though he reportedly added there isn’t yet “consensus” on whether to take that approach.
Another option available to Democrats to keep up the pressure would be to refuse to vote on the nomination of a new FBI Director. And some Senate Democrats appear willing to do that if a special prosecutor is not named to lead an investigation into foreign interference in the presidential election.
“I would oppose confirmation of a new FBI director until there is support for a special prosecutor,” Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal said in an interview.
“I think that we ought to frankly hold off on the FBI director until we get the special prosecutor,” Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is leading it’s own investigation into foreign interference and potential links between Trump associates and Russia, told Politico’s Seung Min Kim.
“I really think the appointment of a special prosecutor should come before consideration of a new FBI director,” Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen said in an interview, adding: “That’s something we’re going to take a good look at.”