Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, said that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein should resign if he will not appoint a special prosecutor to probe ties between Russian officials and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
The Illinois senator became the first Senate Democrat to make such an explicit rebuke of Rosenstein, who has been invited to brief all 100 senators on Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey. Durbin said that Trump’s admission that he fired Comey while thinking about the Russia investigation came "dangerously close to obstruction of justice."
"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," Durbin said. "To preserve his reputation as a credible prosecutor, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein must appoint an independent special prosecutor to pursue possible criminal charges, or he must resign."
The Justice Department has not yet confirmed that Rosenstein will accept the briefing request from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). Congressional aides do expect Rosenstein to attend. Senate Judiciary Committee leaders have requested a separate briefing from Rosenstein.
Rosenstein was confirmed 94-6 earlier this year, with all "no" votes coming from Democrats. Durbin said earlier this week that he now wishes he had been another "no" vote because of Rosenstein’s letter criticizing Comey, which White House aides pointed to as the president’s justification for the move.
"Well I do regret it, based on his memo … he could’ve depoliticized this issue by saying unequivocally that the FBI investigation will continue on Russian interference. And he didn’t," Durbin said.
Seung Min Kim contributed to this report.