Congressional delegation calls for special prosecutor to probe Russian election interference
The state’s congressional delegation joined fellow Democrats Wednesday in calling for a special prosecutor to investigate possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election after President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James B. Comey Tuesday.
Democrats, pointing to various media reports that the decision came just days after Comey asked for additional resources for his own investigation, raised doubts about Trump’s claim that his decision was based on Comey’s handling of a query into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said the need for a special prosecutor “is now crystal clear” after Trump “catastrophically compromised” the investigation.
“Not since Watergate have our legal systems been so threatened, and our faith in the independence and integrity of those systems so shaken,” he said. “The only way to restore faith in a non-political, non-partisan FBI is to appoint an independent special prosecutor.”
Deputy White House spokeswoman Sara Sanders said Trump “lost confidence” in Comey and was considering firing him “since the day he was elected.”
She denied speculation that Trump asked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to write a memo recommending Comey’s dismissal.
Rosenstein wrote in a memo to Attorney General Jeffrey Sessions that Comey’s “refusal to accept the nearly universal judgement” that he erred when he sent a letter to Congress on Oct. 28 indicating he had reopened the Clinton email investigation caused “substantial damage” to the FBI’s “reputation and credibility.”
Sanders said others had reached the same conclusion, including Democrats and intelligence experts.
“I think most of America had decided on their own that Director Comey was not the person who should be leading the FBI, as evidenced by the numerous comments that we’ve seen,” she said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, pointed out that Democrats wanted Comey to resign following the October letter, and accused them of playing politics with their criticism.
He said on the Senate floor that Comey had been “repeatedly and sharply criticized,” while Rosenstein is a respected attorney whose confirmation garnered broad Senate support. He also rebuffed calls for an independent investigation into possible ties between Russia and Trump, his campaign, and his administration.
“Partisan calls should not delay the work of (Senate Intelligence Committee) Chairman (Richard) Burr and Vice Chairman (Mark) Warner,” McConnell said. “Too much is at stake.”
Democrats said the timing raises questions about Trump’s motivation, though. The Associated Press, among several media outlets, reported that Comey asked Rosenstein just days ago for additional resources to aid in his investigation.
“No matter the mistakes that Director Comey has made, the timing of his firing clearly suggests that President Trump is trying to influence or upend the FBI’s investigation into his campaign’s possible collusion with a foreign government,” Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said in a statement. “It simply defies logic that President Trump, who made the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton’s e-mails a centerpiece of his campaign, would all of the sudden convert to the view that Clinton was treated unfairly.”
Democratic U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty agreed, calling the situation a “Constitutional crisis.”
“The American people cannot have confidence in an FBI investigation that bears on President Trump after the president himself handpicks the FBI’s new director,” she said. “The only solution that will restore public trust is for Congress to appoint a special prosecutor to conduct an independent investigation. It is time for every member of Congress to put country before party.”
Democratic U.S. Rep. John Larson pointed out that some Republicans have also expressed a desire for an independent investigation led by a special prosecutor.
“The firing of FBI Director James Comey should renew every American and every member of Congress’ call for an independent investigation into Russian involvement,” Larson said in a statement. “As (South Carolina Sen.) Lindsay Graham stated, it shouldn’t be about Democrat or Republican, it should be about America.”
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