First House Republican signs bill creating committee to investigate Russia, election

Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) has become the first House Republican to co-sponsor a bill calling for an independent investigation of foreign interference in the 2016 presidential election. 

Republicans have generally opposed setting up a special committee to look into Russia's hacking Democratic organizations and individuals, which President Trump has repeatedly minimized. At his press conference on Thursday, he called it a "ruse."

But Jones has a long history of bucking his leadership, so his support for the Democratic bill does not come as a surprise.

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"Congressman Jones is brave enough to do the right thing," Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), who introduced the bill with Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), said in a statement.

The Protecting Our Democracy Act would create an 18-month, 12-member independent investigation into the role of Russia and any other foreign entity in the election.

The intelligence community last year determined that Russia leaked documents from the Democratic National Committee and other political targets in an attempt to hinder Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonPutin says he might be Russia's president for life Senate panel subpoenas co-founder of firm tied to controversial Trump dossier Scaramucci deletes old tweets bashing Trump MORE, delegitimize American democracy or both.  

Sen. John McCainJohn McCainSen. Flake's GOP challenger: McCain should resign The Hill's 12:30 Report Armed Services leaders appoint strategy panel members MORE (R-Ariz.) has offered support for setting up a select committee to look into Russia's involvement in the election. 

Jones signs on as the White House faces a storm of allegations relating to Russia. National security adviser Michael Flynn was forced to resign earlier in the week after misleading Vice President Pence about the contents of conversations he had with Russia's U.S. ambassador before Trump took office. A subsequent New York Times article claimed multiple Trump campaign aides had contact with Russia throughout the election season.

Jones, who served in the North Carolina House as a Democrat before switching parties, has a long career of taking positions against his party. Though he voted for the war in Iraq, he later became a critic. He also took a stand against rule changes that shielded former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) from ethics charges.