Top Democrats say they won't vote on a new FBI director until a special prosecutor is appointed

A growing number of Democrats have said they will refuse to nominate a new FBI director until the deputy attorney general appoints a special prosecutor to investigate potential ties between President Donald Trump's campaign and Russia.

During an interview on Sunday on "State of the Union," CNN anchor Jake Tapper asked Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer if he supported the idea, floated by Senate Intelligence Committee vice chairman Mark Warner.

"I think there are a lot of Democrats who feel that way," Schumer said. "We'll have to discuss it as a caucus, but I would support that move."

The New York senator said a special prosecutor would be able to investigate whether there were any attempts to thwart other existing investigations into Trump's ties to Russia.

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Democrats who could challenge Trump in 2020
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Democrats who could challenge Trump in 2020

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) - In her new book, Warren reveals for the first time that she considered running in 2016, when liberals were begging her to enter the race. This year, Warren joined the Armed Services Committee, filling a major national security gap in her resume. First though, she'll have to win reelection next year in Massachusetts, where some Warren allies expect Republicans to spend heavily to defeat or at least damage her.

REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) - Booker is a crowd favorite whenever he speaks to Democratic audiences and is expected to headline several party fundraising events this year. One of the few African-Americans in the Senate, Booker has a big social media following and is a darling of the Manhattan donor class. His precedent-breaking testimony against Attorney General Jeff Sessions was a high-profile event that endeared him to many on the left.

REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) - Sanders won millions of votes during his unexpectedly strong presidential primary bid last year, which gave him a massive following and small-dollar donor base that's the envy of many Dems. He's the most popular politician in America, according to some surveys, and inspires enthusiastic loyalty. But Sanders would be 78 in 2020, and while his age doesn't seem to slow him down, Democrats may want a fresher face. 

REUTERS/Mary Schwalm

Former Gov. Martin O'Malley (MD) - No one has shown more interest in 2020 so far than O'Malley, who has been traveling to key states to campaign for Democrats and who told NBC News in January that he "just might" run for president again. O'Malley failed to crack 1% in the Iowa caucuses last time around. But he was convinced there no room for anyone in a race so clearly defined by Hillary Clinton and Sanders, and insists that he could perform better under different circumstances.

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Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) - With a reality TV star-turned-politician in the White House, some Democrats think the comedian-turned-politician would be the perfect foil. His book out next month, sarcastically titled, "Al Franken, Giant of the Senate," could be a signal of higher ambition.

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Joe Biden - The former vice president ran for the top job twice and nearly did a third time in 2016. Could he really make a go of it in 2020? "Never say never," Biden told "Late Show" host Stephen Colbert. "You don't know what's going to happen. I mean, hell Donald Trump's gonna be 74. I'll be 77 and in better shape. I mean, what the hell?"

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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) - Gillibrand has long been seen as potential presidential material, and her decision to vote against almost every one of Trump's Cabinet nominees has earned her renewed praise on the left. A recent profile in New York magazine further edged her toward the national stage.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo (NY) - Cuomo has built record of accomplishments in his time leading New York State, including the recent passage of a universal college tuition program, even though he's also racked up some detractors along the way. And unlike some of the other 2020 possibles, he's hardly shown a relish for taking on Trump.

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Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) - The former California Attorney General just got to the Senate in January, but many party insiders think she's interested in higher office and that she would be a formidable candidate for the White House. Political talent scouts have been watching her for years, with a 2015 Washington Post headline asking, "Is Kamala Harris the next Barack Obama?"

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"People would breathe a sigh of relief because then there would be a real independent person overlooking the FBI director," Schumer said. "The key is to get some of our Republican colleagues to support it."

Schumer and Warner aren't the only Democrats who have endorsed the idea in the wake of Trump's decision to fire former FBI director James Comey amid the escalating investigation into Trump's potential Russia ties.

Speaking at the Common Good forum in New York on Friday, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said Trump's firing cast a dark shadow over the investigation, and she urged Republicans to "join in calling for an independent prosecutor in Trump campaign's connections with Russia."

"I believe that we should not actually vote on an FBI Director replacement until there is a special prosecutor," Gillibrand said. "I think it's really important. Because what is happening is a subversion of justice."

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein could appoint a special counsel, who could subpoena documents and potentially seek criminal charges, but could still be fired by the president.

An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released Sunday morning found that 78% of Americans want a special prosecutor or independent commission to take over the Russia investigation, while just 15% said Congress could handle it.

But Republicans have yet to get onboard. GOP leaders in Congress, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have resisted appointing their own special counsel or commission to investigate, saying ongoing investigations within the FBI and House and Senate committees into Russia's attempt to influence the 2016 election were enough.

"I think the intelligence committees are the ones that should do this, because, don't forget that the methods and sources of our intelligence gathering are also at play here, and we have to be very sensitive so that we don't compromise that information as well," Ryan told Fox News this week, referencing Trump's complaints about leaks of information from law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

NOW WATCH: 'Really?': A reporter calls out Huckabee's claim that 'countless' FBI employees were happy with Comey's firing

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DON'T MISS: Top Democratic senator: The Senate should not vote on FBI director until a special prosecutor is appointed

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