Only one Republican lawmaker thus far has joined Democrats in calling for an independent special prosecutor to investigate Trump's ties to Russia, something 2/3 of Americans support. But the nominee for Deputy Attorney General refused during his confirmation hearing to commit to making such an appointment.
Given all the questions about Donald Trump and his team's ties to Russia, approximately two-thirds of Americans support the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the matter in the interests of national security and sovereignty.
Following Attorney General Jeff Sessions' recusal from such an investigation — which resulted from pressure after it was discovered Sessions lied during his confirmation hearing about his own communications with Russian officials — Senate Democrats led the call for the appointment of an independent special prosecutor.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer:
If DOJ refuses to appoint a special prosecutor, we'll urge GOP to work with Dems to create a new, improved independent counsel law.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) March 2, 2017
Ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Dianne Feinstein:
This matter calls for a special prosecutor, which is appointed by the A.G. #Sessions must also recuse himself from that process.
— Sen Dianne Feinstein (@SenFeinstein) March 2, 2017
Ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, Ron Wyden:
Recusal is not enough. Special Counsel at the bare minimum.
— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) March 2, 2017
Vice Chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus, Elizabeth Warren:
We need a special prosecutor totally independent of the AG. We need a real, bipartisan, transparent Congressional investigation into Russia.
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) March 2, 2017
Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal:
To maintain credibility&impartiality of DOJ, Sessions must appoint independent prosecutor to investigate Trump officials' collusion w/Russia
— Richard Blumenthal (@SenBlumenthal) February 15, 2017
Independent Senator Bernie Sanders also supported calls for a special prosecutor:
— Sasha Fox (@sasha_a_fox) March 6, 2017
To date, only ONE Republican, Representative Darrell Issa of California, has joined the Democrats in explicitly calling for a special prosecutor and also noting the need for that prosecutor to be independent and not the Deputy to the Attorney General:
You cannot have somebody, a friend of mine Jeff Sessions, who was on the campaign and who is an appointee. You're going to need to use the special prosecutor's statute and office to take — not just to recuse. You can't just give it to your deputy. That's another political appointee.
That is right: Only one Republican out of 238 Congressional Representatives and 52 Senators is concerned enough about national security and sovereignty to support an independent special prosecutor to investigate interference by a foreign adversary in the affairs of the United States.
While it should be obvious on its face that a Trump political appointee within the Department of Justice is not the best choice for an unbiased investigation into Trump and his team's ties to Russia, current regulations call for the Deputy Attorney General to perform such an investigation if the Attorney General recuses himself. In other words, current law calls for the Deputy Attorney General to investigate not only his immediate boss, the Attorney General, but also to investigate the President of the United States, who nominated him for his position.
As a result, leading Democrats have called for the Deputy Attorney General nominee, Rod Rosenstein to commit to appointing an independent special prosecutor as a condition for their support of his confirmation. Schumer commented, "The Senate Judiciary Committee is going to have a hearing on the nomination of Mr. Rosenstein to serve as the deputy attorney general. During that hearing Mr. Rosenstein should commit to naming a special prosecutor to look into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia."
Blumenthal went further, threatening to do everything in his power to block Rosenstein if he refuses to make such a commitment:
Independent special prosecutor is needed to investigate possible Trump team ties to Russian officials interfering in our election
— Richard Blumenthal (@SenBlumenthal) March 5, 2017
I'll use every possible tool to block DOJ Deputy AG nominee unless he commits to appoint independent special prosecutor
— Richard Blumenthal (@SenBlumenthal) March 5, 2017
Unfortunately, the political reality is the Democrats simply do not have the numbers necessary to block any of Trump's nominees as long as their Republican colleagues all support that nominee.
During his confirmation hearing, Rosenstein was asked about committing to appointing an independent special prosecutor and danced around the question:
GRASSLEY: How would you handle such an investigation? Have you ever discussed with the attorney general the appointment of a special prosecutor to handle such an investigation?
ROSENSTEIN: Well, uh, how I would handle an investigation, Senator, is the way I would handle any investigation. As far as I'm concerned, every investigation conducted by the Department of Justice is an independent investigation. We prosecute tens of thousands of people every year, and every one of those defendants deserves an independent prosecutor. So, I would be certain that we had independent investigators to conduct those investigations, along with law enforcement agents who are trained to conduct their investigations in an appropriate way and comply with the statutes, the regulations, the Constitution, and the policies of our law enforcement agencies. So that is the way I would do that, Senator.
With regard to the special counsel in this or other cases — I know this is the issue du jour on Capitol Hill — but, I anticipate that, if I were the Deputy Attorney General, we'd have a lot of matters coming before the department over time, and I would approach them all the same way. I would evaluate the facts and the law, consider the applicable regulations, consult with career professionals in the department, and then exercise my best judgment, if I were Acting Attorney General, or provide my best advice to the Attorney General, if he were not recused, about what I believe is the right course of action.
Not only did Rosenstein refuse to commit to appointing an independent special prosecutor, he minimized Russia's actions that potentially compromised the United States government, calling it the "issue du jour," and equated the most important national security issue in decades with every other matter coming before the DoJ.
America deserves and demands better. The American people have a right to an investigation of Trump and his team's ties to Russia led by a prosecutor independent of any partisan bias, and there is precedent for such taking such an action. The GOP's continuing refusal to support this call is a reprehensible display of putting the interests of their party over the security of our country.