Senate GOP chair won’t rule out independent Russia probe

Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) is not ruling out an independent investigation into Russian election interference, saying he wants a briefing from Senate Intelligence Committee leaders first.

Johnson told The Hill that he doesn’t want to duplicate the Intel panel’s efforts, but added his committee “may have to go beyond” what that panel is doing.

The chairman said he committed to the panel’s ranking member, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), "to request a meeting with [Intel panel] Chairman Burr and Vice Chairman Warner to basically brief us."

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Johnson avoided saying whether he agreed with President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday, but said Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's letter "laid out a very powerful case, where Director Comey has real issues."

Comey’s FBI was conducting it’s own investigation into Russia’s election interference and the Trump team’s links to Moscow, as are the Senate and House Intelligence committees.

McCaskill said she doesn’t believe Trump fired Comey for being "unfair" to Hillary Clinton, as Rosenstein’s letter criticized him for.

"That's what the letter said — that the way he conducted himself was not fair to Hillary Clinton, and that just doesn't make sense to me," McCaskill told The Hill.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) said he doubts that there will be an independent investigation into the Russian interference in the U.S. election.

"Given what Leader McConnell has said on the floor, there’s a total denial of what’s going on, so I think it’s slim, if not none. We need three statesmen from the other side to step up," Tester said.

Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said Comey's firing has little impact on the FBI's current investigation into Russian interference.

“[FBI] career folks will continue their investigation. ... If they get locked up and can’t do their work, then there may be a need for it, but theres no evidence they’re locked up," Lankford said.

Watch the video above to hear the senators in their own words.