Warner endorses special prosecutor for Russia probe

The top Democrat at the helm of the Senate’s investigation into President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia on Tuesday called for a special prosecutor to look into the matter after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey.

Warner’s endorsement of a special prosecutor underscores the strain that Comey’s ousting has placed on the Intelligence Committee’s bipartisan probe. Senior senators in both parties have supported the committee’s work, but Democrats, led by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, are increasingly clamoring for an independent investigation of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

The special prosecutor should not be tapped by "one of the political appointees" in the Trump administration, Warner told reporters as he left a special Democratic caucus meeting on the Comey firing. "I don’t have faith in the political appointees."

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, confirmed last month with the support of all but six liberal senators, is facing scrutiny from Democrats for authoring a memo that provided the Trump administration’s stated rationale for firing Comey. Rosenstein criticized Comey’s handling of the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server, but many Democrats see a connection between Comey’s Russia probe and his abrupt axing by the president.

Warner added that the Senate "ought to, frankly, hold off on" the confirmation process for Comey’s replacement at the FBI "until we get the special prosecutor."

Pressed about Democrats’ leverage to win GOP backing for a special prosecutor, Warner noted that "there are a lot of my Republican colleagues who have expressed grave concerns as well" about the timing of the firing. "If there’s ever a time that an issue has to be as … nonpartisan as possible, it’s right now."

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