04.26.17

Leahy And 13 Other Senators Urge The Newly Confirmed Deputy Attorney General: ‘APPOINT A SPECIAL PROSECUTOR – IMMEDIATELY’

. . . Following the confirmation of Rod Rosenstein to serve as Deputy AG, 14 senators call for a comprehensive, independent investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election

WASHINGTON (WEDNESDAY, April 26, 2017) -- Following Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s confirmation late Tuesday, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) led a group of 14 senators, including Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), in urging him to immediately appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Since Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ has recused himself, Rosenstein is now responsible for leading the Department of Justice’s investigation.

“We write to request that you take immediate action to ensure a comprehensive and impartial investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election,” the senators wrote. “Because Attorney General Sessions has recused himself from this matter, you are responsible for leading the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) response to these unprecedented circumstances. In order to ensure the fullest possible public confidence in the unbiased nature of the conduct of the investigation, the content of its findings, and any necessary actions in response, we urge you to use existing regulatory authority to appoint an independent official, such as a special prosecutor, to head the investigation.”

In addition to Blumenthal and Leahy, the letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Al Franken (D-MN), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Tom Udall (D-NM), Tom Carper (D-DE), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NM), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).

Copy of the letter’s text is available here and below.  Also BELOW is Leahy’s full Congressional Record statement on the Rosenstein nomination.

Dear Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein:

We write to request that you take immediate action to ensure a comprehensive and impartial investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Because Attorney General Sessions has recused himself from this matter, you are responsible for leading the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) response to these unprecedented circumstances. In order to ensure the fullest possible public confidence in the unbiased nature of the conduct of the investigation, the content of its findings, and any necessary actions in response, we urge you to use existing regulatory authority to appoint an independent official, such as a special prosecutor, to head the investigation.

The integrity of American elections must be unquestioned and unimpeachable. Any attempts by a foreign power to interfere with our democratic process – whether to help a particular candidate or otherwise – are attacks not on Democrats or Republicans but on the entire country. It is now well documented that Russia engaged in precisely this type of interference, possibly along with collusion and cover-up efforts by American citizens. The degree to which individuals connected to President Trump’s campaign communicated or coordinated with the Russians is the subject of an active FBI investigation, and the possibility of criminal prosecution is very real.

The Attorney General (or his designee) has wide latitude to appoint an attorney from outside the Department of Justice to take charge of any investigation that could pose a conflict of interest or when it would otherwise be in the public interest to do so. See 28 C.F.R. § 600.1. Past Attorneys General have done so in a number of high-profile, highly political cases that had the potential to reveal wrongdoing on the part of an Administration – precisely the kind of matter presented here. For example, Elliot Richardson agreed to appoint a special prosecutor before his confirmation to serve as Attorney General under President Richard Nixon, and then-Deputy Attorney General James Comey designated one to investigate a controversial matter that arose during President George W. Bush’s administration.

While we have no reason to doubt your integrity or professionalism, the American people cannot have full confidence when a prosecutor investigates his own boss and the President who appointed and can remove him. The regulations providing for the appointment of an independent, impartial head of such investigations were put in place for just this reason. We therefore urge you to appoint a special prosecutor and take any other steps necessary to ensure that a complete investigation of this matter proceeds without delay.

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Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)

On the Nomination of Rod Rosenstein to be

Deputy Attorney General

Congressional Record

April 25, 2017

Rod Rosenstein’s nomination to be Deputy Attorney General comes at a unique moment in history and critical juncture for the Department of Justice, as well as for this country.  It has been 44 years since the Senate considered a Justice Department nominee who will be in charge of an active criminal investigation into a sitting president’s campaign and administration.  Since the Judiciary Committee reported Mr. Rosenstein’s nomination to the Senate earlier this month, further press reports underscore how important it is that we have an independent and impartial investigation into Russian interference in our elections and connections with the Trump campaign and administration. 

In just the past three weeks, we learned that a notable Trump campaign advisor was reportedly the subject of a FISA warrant.  CNN reported that this advisor was among those who “Russian operatives tried to use . . . to infiltrate the Trump campaign.”  The AP reported that Paul Manafort, who worked for free as the Trump campaign chairman, previously received at least $1.2 million for consulting work on behalf of a Ukrainian ally of Russian President Putin.  That is in addition to reports that Mr. Manafort earned $10 million per year for secret work on behalf of Vladimir Putin.  We learned that President Trump’s first National Security Advisor “failed to list payments from Russia-linked entities” on his financial disclosure forms.  We also learned that the President’s son-in-law and top advisor failed to disclose meetings with the Russian ambassador and other officials on his application to obtain top secret security clearance—just like when the Attorney General provided false testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in response to questions from me and Senator Franken about his own Russian contacts.

If confirmed, Mr. Rosenstein will assume leadership of the sprawling investigation into Russia’s multifaceted attempts to interfere with our elections, an investigation that embroils not only individuals in the Trump campaign, but also those who are now in the President’s cabinet and senior officials in the White House.  Attorney General Sessions was forced to recuse himself from this investigation after the press revealed that he had misled the Judiciary Committee and the American people about his connections to Russian officials and agents.  There is no question that the Attorney General’s recusal was required—and should have happened on day one after assuming office.  Justice Department regulations required him to recuse himself because of the integral role that then-Senator Sessions played in the Trump campaign and his continuing contacts with those directly under investigation.  These Department of Justice regulations protect the impartiality of all Justice Department investigations. 

The Justice Department’s regulations regarding appointment of a Special Counsel are equally significant.  These regulations direct appointment of a Special Counsel when there is “a conflict of interest for the Department or other extraordinary circumstances” and “it would be in the public interest to appoint an outside Special Counsel to assume responsibility for the matter.”  The current situation unquestionably meets that standard. Mr. Rosenstein acknowledged at his confirmation hearing that it would be an unusual challenge to lead an investigation that potentially includes the Attorney General, his direct supervisor.  This investigation now not only includes Mr. Rosenstein’s potential boss, but also several others inside the White House.  Americans deserve an investigation that is independent and inspires public confidence, and that requires appointment of a Special Counsel who is free from political influence.  This issue is too important for us to skew for partisan motivations.  Country must come before party, and I hope and trust Mr. Rosenstein will understand that if he is confirmed.

We know that this administration, and this President, have already interfered with the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russian activity and connections to the Trump campaign.  Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, recused himself from his own Committee’s investigation after what Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker called a “coordinated effort between the Trump Administration and [Chairman] Nunes . . . to manufacture a fake scandal” in order to distract from, as well as obstruct, any real investigation.  Earlier this month, President Trump even said that “it’s not too late” to fire FBI Director Comey.  This administration cannot be trusted to respect the independence of any investigation, which is why we need an outside Special Counsel.  Whomever assumes the role of Deputy Attorney General in this administration will face extraordinary tests of integrity.  Mr. Rosenstein has a reputation for integrity that is unusual for this administration’s nominees, and I hope he is up to the challenge. 

We already know from the Intelligence Community’s public report that Russian President Putin waged a multi-faceted influence campaign to delegitimize Secretary Clinton and help Donald Trump win the Presidency.  Worse, he intended to undermine public faith in our democratic process.  And this interference did not end on November 8th.  It is ongoing and, according to the Intelligence Community, President Putin will continue using cyber-attacks and propaganda campaigns to undermine our future elections.  But there is still much we do not know. 

We need a thorough, independent investigation.  President Putin’s goal last year was to undermine our democratic institutions—to corrode Americans’ trust and faith in our government.  If we do not get to the bottom of Russian interference, he will have been successful.  And he will no doubt do it again.  I hope that Mr. Rosenstein will do the right thing and appoint a Special Counsel to lead a truly independent investigation—one in which all Americans can have confidence.

If confirmed, Mr. Rosenstein will face other critical tests as well, including whether he will continue to support the Justice Department’s Smart on Crime initiative, focusing the most serious criminal penalties on the most serious offenders.  With his 27 years of experience in the Justice Department, I hope that Mr. Rosenstein will be an independent check on the excesses of this administration, which has already sought to undermine the principle of judicial review.  He has served as U.S. Attorney under both Democratic and Republican administrations, so I hope that as Deputy Attorney General, and as Acting Attorney General in matters relating to the Trump campaign, he will remember that he is not the President’s attorney, but the people’s attorney.

Press Contact

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