03.23.17

Citing Mounting Evidence Of Trump-Russia Ties, Senator Leahy Renews Call For Independent Special Counsel

. . . Says On Senate Floor: “There is so much smoke here, it is getting hard to breathe.”

Senator Patrick Leahy reiterated his call on Thursday for an independent investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Leahy’s latest call came during a week in which the FBI director confirmed the bureau is investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia since July, and new reports showed that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort earned $10 million per year for secret work on behalf of President Putin.  Manafort resigned from the campaign after questions were raised about his extensive activities in Russia and Ukraine.  General Michael Flynn, President Trump’s former National Security Advisor, also resigned from his post after it was revealed he lied to Vice President Pence about his conversations with the Russian ambassador.

In a floor statement, Leahy said it is time for a nonpartisan and thorough investigation into connections between Trump officials and the Russian government.

“I have no reason to doubt the integrity of the FBI’s investigation thus far.  But I have every reason to believe it will eventually be at risk.  We need an independent special prosecutor to lead this investigation and to ultimately decide whether there is sufficient evidence to prosecute.  A special prosecutor would not report to Attorney General Sessions—who himself is a witness to this investigation.  And a special prosecutor, unlike the Deputy Attorney General or the FBI director, cannot be fired by the President.

“Our nation is at a precipice.  We can either confront what happened in our elections—get to the bottom of it with an independent investigation—and make sure it never happens again.  Or we can pretend this is just another Washington scandal, and allow it to be filtered through a familiar partisan lens.  That would be a terrible mistake.  There is a counterintelligence investigation into the campaign of a sitting President.  There is evidence that such campaign colluded with a foreign adversary to impact our presidential election.  This is not normal.  We must not treat it as such.”

Despite the serious questions about the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has not appointed a special prosecutor to investigate Russia’s efforts to undermine the 2016 election.  Attorney General Sessions has failed to do this despite misleading the Senate Judiciary Committee, under oath, about his own communications with Russian officials.

On Thursday, Leahy also sent written follow up questions to Deputy Attorney General nominee Rod Rosenstein about the need for a Special Counsel.  Now that Attorney General Sessions has partially recused himself from investigating Russian ties to Trump officials, it falls to the Deputy Attorney General to appoint a Special Counsel.  Rosenstein’s nomination is currently pending before the Judiciary Committee. 

Leahy’s full remarks are available online.

And Leahy’s follow up questions to Deputy Attorney General nominee Rod Rosenstein are available online

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