WASHINGTON — Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein still sees no reason for an independent special prosecutor to investigate possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, CNN reported Friday.
Rosenstein, who has the power to name a special prosecutor, won’t likely change his mind unless he believes the FBI probe into Trump-Russia ties is at risk, according to CNN. He sees no reason to recuse himself from overseeing Justice Department work on the investigation, the network reported, citing people familiar with Rosenstein’s thinking.
Democrats’ demands for an independent probe have intensified in the wake of President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, who had been leading the bureau’s investigation of Russia’s attempt to influence the presidential election and whether Trump’s campaign colluded in the effort.
Those cries grew louder after Trump’s admission Thursday that the FBI’s Russian probe factored into his decision to fire Comey, and his Twitter threat that Comey “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations.”
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Friday that for Rosenstein to “preserve his reputation,” he must appoint a special prosector to pursue criminal charges, or resign. Rosenstein has been on the job a little more than two weeks.
“In an interview with NBC News, President Trump admitted to firing FBI Director James Comey because of his investigation of the Trump campaign’s Russian connections — that is dangerously close to obstruction of justice,” Durbin said in a statement. “This morning, the President tweeted a thinly veiled threat to Mr. Comey, which could be construed as threatening a witness in this investigation, which is another violation of federal law.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) joined Durbin in calling for Rosenstein to step aside if he’s unwilling to appoint a special counsel, saying the ongoing probes “are far too important to risk disruption, delay or interference.”
The White House initially said Trump fired Comey at the recommendation of Rosenstein, who wrote in a May 9 memo that Comey mishandled the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails. Trump contradicted that narrative in his NBC interview, saying he was going to fire Comey regardless.
Rosenstein threatened to resign over the way the White House pinned him as the driving force behind Comey’s firing, according to The Washington Post. Some 20 state attorneys general wrote to Rosenstein Thursday, urging him to “consider the damage to our democratic system of any attempts by the administration to derail and delegitimize the investigation,” according to the Post.
Rosenstein in March told the Senate Judiciary Committee he would only appoint a special prosecutor if he determines “it’s appropriate based upon the policies and procedures of the Justice Department.”
Multiple congressional committees also are investigating Russia’s interference in the election and possible Trump campaign collusion.
Ryan Reilly contributed reporting.