Congress must step up and take the lead by appointing an independent prosecutor to investigate the Trump administration’s ties to the Russian government.

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CONGRESS must act quickly to appoint a special prosecutor to continue investigating the Trump administration’s ties to the Russian government, after the president fired FBI Director James Comey over his probe of Russian interference in the election.

President Donald Trump’s action sent shock waves across the nation, while the administration’s justification for the firing wilts under media scrutiny. Leaders and regular citizens are dubious as to why the president fired Comey right after the FBI director requested more money to expand his department’s probe into Russia influence. The administration is spinning the termination as a way to clean up the FBI.

Rather, it appears to be a cynical way to halt an embarrassing investigation that could turn into a scandal.

The future of our democracy depends on a thorough and independent investigation of Russian interference in our political system. Whether or not the inquest finds a direct connection between the president and Russian leaders, an independent look is best for all involved, including the president.

American citizens must rely on Congress to do the right thing before files are shredded or lost and evidence disappears.

Someone who cannot be fired by the president should lead the ongoing investigation. That should not be Comey’s replacement, and it cannot be Attorney General Jeff Sessions because he already has recused himself. One possibility: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein could appoint a special prosecutor.

Since Watergate, the federal Ethics in Government Act governs how special prosecutors can be appointed. The last time this came up was the appointment of attorney Kenneth Starr to oversee investigations into President Bill Clinton.

Many Democrats, including Washington’s two senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, have already called for a special prosecutor. But they do not stand alone in their sharp criticism of Trump’s firing of Comey. Many Republicans have expressed concerns. Some have said they would back their party leaders if they call for a special prosecutor, and a growing number, including Sen. John McCain of Arizona, are calling for at least some kind of an independent investigation. Perhaps, that could be by a bipartisan select committee of lawmakers.

Leaders must not ignore the frightening precedent Trump has set. An independent prosecutor is needed.