With FBI Director James B. Comey’s termination, one Senate Democrat is accelerating plans to craft legislation for an independent counsel to investigate President Donald Trump and ties to Russia.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who was himself a federal prosecutor, told CQ Roll Call late Tuesday that he had been working on writing a bill that would look similar to the old lapsed statute for such outside prosecutors, but the effort will now accelerate.
“My preference is that Rod Rosenstein will do the right thing and appoint a special prosecutor, as I have been urging him to do,” the Connecticut Democrat said in a phone interview. “But, I am drafting legislation that I will be ready to introduce, and I am hopeful that Republicans will join in a bipartisan bill. I have not yet determined when I will actually introduce it.”
Rosenstein, the recently-confirmed deputy attorney general, is the point man on the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election because Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself after it was revealed that he had met with Russian Amb. Sergey Kislyak.
On Comey’s actions, Rosenstein wrote a memo saying Comey was “wrong” to “usurp” the attorney general — then Loretta Lynch — by announcing in early July his conclusion that the Clinton email case should be closed “without prosecution.”
“At most, [Comey] should have said the FBI had completed its investigation and presented its findings to federal prosecutors,” Rosenstein told Sessions. “But the FBI director is never empowered to supplant federal prosecutors and assume command of the Justice Department.”
Rosenstein’s role in the events leading to Trump’s termination of Comey is sure to raise more questions about his ability to steer any DOJ activities related to the Trump campaign and Russia.
“We have been drafting the legislation, but now we need to finalize it,” said Blumenthal, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The measure would resemble a prior law that allowed Congress to recommend independent prosecutors. That law lapsed in 1999 amid partisan discord over Ken Starr’s investigation into the actions of President Bill Clinton.
“It would not be identical to it, but the conceptual framework would be very much like the statute that existed that expired,” Blumenthal said.
Blumenthal explained that in addition to Comey’s abrupt dismissal from the FBI, a new report of a federal grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, issuing subpoenas in relation to former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, gave even more reason for appointing an independent lawyer to investigate the matter.
“The grand jury subpoenas are simply more circumstantial evidence that the real reason that President Trump fired the FBI Director is to stop or stifle an investigation that potentially has him as a target,” Blumenthal said. “The reason given for firing Jim Comey related to the Clinton emails is absolutely preposterous because it happened months and months ago.”
“The grand jury investigation subpoenas today all point to the urgency of [naming] an independent special counsel,” Blumenthal said.
John T. Bennett contributed to this report.