U.S. Democrats try to force vote on independent Russia probe

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - (This May 17 story, in penultimate paragraph, corrects to show that Walter Jones is the only Republican in the House to support the petition, not that Jones and Justin Amash are the only two Republicans in the House to support the petition)

Democratic lawmakers said on Wednesday they would try to force a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives on forming an independent commission to investigate possible Russian influence on the 2016 election, saying Republicans could not be trusted to thoroughly investigate President Donald Trump.

Representatives Elijah Cummings and Eric Swalwell introduced a bill in December 2016 and again in January 2017 seeking to establish a 12-member, bipartisan-appointed, independent commission to investigate.

Democrats have been pushing for a special prosecutor or independent investigation of Russia and the election, and possible links between Trump’s associates and Moscow as the Republican campaigned for president.

Russia has denied that it sought to meddle in the U.S. vote, and Trump has pushed back against such assertions.

The Republican leaders of the House have not allowed the legislation to move forward, forcing Democrats to use a parliamentary procedure known as a “discharge petition” aimed at forcing a vote on legislation that would create the commission.

“Speaker (Paul) Ryan has shown he has zero, zero, zero appetite for any investigation of President Trump,” Cummings told a news conference. He charged the White House with obstructing congressional investigations and refusing to provide documents.

So far, Representative Walter Jones is the only Republican in the House to support the petition, which would not succeed unless 23 members of the party joined all 193 Democrats in signing it.

Democrats have used discharge petitions successfully only twice in recent years, most recently for a vote to preserve the export-import bank in 2015.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Chizu Nomiyama and David Gregorio