Two moderate Republicans, one of whom is a member of the Senate committee investigating Trump’s campaign ties to Russia, raised the possibility of tapping a special prosecutor to continue the FBI investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election Wednesday.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a member of the Senate intelligence committee, told NPR that she believes Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein should make that determinationnow. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said in a statement posted on social media that a special prosecutor or independent commission may be necessary for lawmakers, the FBI and President Trump’s administration “to restore the public’s trust.”
“I believe there are sufficient allegations out there — regrettably many of them from anonymous sources — that the Department of Justice should take a look at this,” said Collins, who earlier didn’t support the idea of an independent investigation.
Both senators, however, shied away from echoing their Democratic colleagues’ more aggressive demand for a special prosecutor and seem to only suggest the possibility. Both also maintained that the ongoing congressional inquiries into possible Russian interference in the election should move forward.
Collins told NPR that three questions need to be answered in deciding whether a special prosecutor is warranted.
“One, is there going to be a criminal investigation? Second, does the Department of Justice have a conflict of interest or are there other extraordinary circumstances? Third, is it in the public interest?” Collins said.
Collins suggested completing the congressional committee’s broader inquiry into Russia and the Trump campaign and then having the Senate Intelligence Committee recommend an independent counsel to be appointed.
Asked whether she wants to hear from Trump, Collins said the president should issue a statement “far more thoroughly explaining his actions.”
But, she added, the key person she wants to hear from right now is former FBI director James Comey.
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va), chairman and vice chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, respectively, have both called for Comey’s appearance before the committee in both open and closed sessions.
After Comey’s abrupt firing, a chorus of Democrats demanded that a special prosecutor take over the investigation Comey was heading. But most Republicans, who are in control of both the House and the Senate, don’t support an independent inquiry, although many of them are unhappy about Comey’s abrupt dismissal.