Vermont senators praise special prosecutor appointment

WASHINGTON – Vermont’s two U.S. Senators praised the appointment of a special prosecutor to oversee the FBI investigation into potential collusion between associates of President Donald Trump and the Russian government.

U.S. Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders – along with U.S. Rep. Peter Welch – have been calling for an independent Department of Justice investigation for days, their voices part of a chorus composed mostly of Democratic lawmakers.

On Wednesday, a deputy attorney general named former FBI Director Robert Mueller to lead the Russian investigation.

On Monday, the Washington Post reported that Trump had shared classified intelligence information with the Russians during a meeting in the Oval Office.

The pressure for an outside review heightened a day later, when the New York Times reported that Trump had asked the FBI Director, James Comey, to halt an investigation into Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, over his contacts with Russian officials. The investigation started over allegations that the Russians interfered in the November election.

Trump fired Comey last week.

The deputy attorney general who made the appointment, Rod Rosenstein, was also under mounting political pressure after he wrote a letter to Trump justifying Comey’s dismissal by criticizing the FBI director’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server.

Sanders called the appointment of Mueller “a positive step,” adding he was “hopeful” that Mueller would allow the investigation to continue unimpeded.

“To ensure the American people have full confidence in this investigation, it must be conducted in an open and transparent manner and be given the full resources it needed,” Sanders said in a statement. “Additionally, the ongoing investigations by the both the Senate and House must continue.”

The Wednesday evening letter from Rosenstein also heartened Leahy, who had, hours earlier, decried the handling of the investigation on the Senate floor, saying “at this critical time, it is not acceptable to remain on the sidelines.”

Leahy said he knew Mueller well from his FBI oversight work on the Senate Judiciary Committee when Mueller ran the agency between 2001 and 2013.

“He is widely respected in Congress, across the political spectrum,” Leahy said. “I welcome this development and am glad that Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein did the right thing by appointing a special counsel. Director Mueller has an enormous responsibility, to impartially determine the extent to which Russia has interfered in our democracy, and the depth of any connections between this administration and Russian officials.”

Leahy has been pushing for Rosenstein to appoint a special prosecutor since the attorney’s March confirmation hearings before the Judiciary Committee. Department rules call for the appointment of a special prosecutor should involvement by federal prosecutors “present a conflict of interest for the department.”

In March, Rosenstein made no pledge to Leahy and other Democrats to appoint a special counsel.

“As far as I’m concerned, every investigation conducted by the Department of Justice is an independent investigation,” he said. “We prosecute tens of thousands of people every year, and every one of those defendants deserves an independent prosecutor. And so I would be certain we had independent investigators to conduct those investigations.”

Rosenstein briefed all 100 senators late Thursday on the ongoing Russia investigation.

Meanwhile, Leahy is also requesting more information on Trump’s business ties across the world, which could potentially violate the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution.

In a Thursday letter joined by 16 other Senators, Leahy pressed the Trump Organization for more information on his foreign business ties. Two of the countries Trump is set to visit on his first trip abroad are ones where he holds assets — Saudi Arabia and Israel.

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Jasper Craven

About Jasper

Jasper Craven is VTDigger’s political reporter. A Vermont native, he first discovered his love for journalism at the Caledonian Record. He double-majored in print journalism and political science at Boston University, and worked in the Boston Globe’s Metro and Investigative units. While at the Globe he collaborated on Shadow Campus, a three-part investigative series focused on greed and mismanagement in Boston’s off-campus student housing market. The series was a finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize.
He also spent two years at MuckRock, a news sited dedicated to investigation and analysis of government documents. 

Craven covered Vermont’s U.S. Congressional delegation for the Times Argus in the summer of 2014, and worked as a Metro reporter for the Chicago Tribune before joining the staff of VTDigger.

Email: [email protected]

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  • Steve Baker

    It would be nice if our group of Washington liberals would help focus on helping all the citizens of Vermont.

    • Robert Lehmert

      Comrade Steve, can you imagine they can walk and chew at the same time? Perhaps it is time for you to run for office to share your perspective with a waiting world. From my point of view, Vermont never suffered through the Great Recession the way that most other states (mostly sun belt states) did. Therefore the premise of measuring by % recovery from the Recession is a little silly. Moreover, if you want to “fix” Vermont, try flattening the hills and importing a couple million consumers.

      • Deborah Billado

        The hills are fine… but why would anyone come to Vermont.. the cost of living is unreasonable, jobs are scarce, the business climate and Montpelier are unpredictable, house is out of this world expensive.. should I say more. Vermont has lost population in the last couple years, not to mention we have over 20,000 fewer kids in the school system than we did 15 yrs ago.. yet the cost of education is one of the most expensive in the nation.. can you say VEA.. or UNION. Many of us are trying to make sense of where we are headed.. do we stay or do we go?

        • Edward Letourneau

          You go. The legislature showed us this year that they will not vote for reforms unless the teacher unions approve.

      • Steve Baker

        It’s laughable that you say Vermont never suffered the great recession, we’ve been in the cellar for so many years it’s hard to tell how bad things are comparatively to other states.

        • Robert Lehmert

          “It’s hard” is an expression that comes from inside oneself. Other people love their lives and circumstances — without grievance at every turn.

  • Gary Murdock

    This Leahy / Sanders / Welch press release is a textbook example of why I skip over anything written here about Washington. I already know what these three individuals think about every single issue, why waste my time reading about? This is regurgitation, not reporting.

    • Dominic Cotignola

      Because if you don’t keep up with reporting on your representatives, you end up like North Carolina.

      Our reps don’t have much longer in life to go. Better to keep the liberal ideas in for forefront than let it go by the way side and get more repubs in power in VT when current reps decide to leave.

      • Steve Baker

        North Carolina is actually a thriving state. Every economic metric pair doing better than the welfare state of Vermont

  • Ken Hertz

    Re your headline: Special PROSECUTOR is not the same as Special COUNSEL.

    • Pat McGarry

      Very accurate observation. There is currently a Special Counsel pursuant to 28 CFR 600.1. The last Special Prosecutor served during Watergate.

  • Steve Baker

    It’s interesting now that many principled sensible smart Liberals are coming around to the truth.
    Jonathan Turley and Alan Dershowitz both noted attorneys and liberals, Both have asked the constitutional question “what crime has occurred ?”
    Both have stated if Trump and Putin conspired to overthrow Hillary, it is not a crime.
    Matt Lauer, well known liberal mouthpiece has lamented that a special prosecutor takes the headlines away from Democrats……..
    Whereas special prosecutor’s should only be prosecuting crimes, most freethinking legal expert think this is only a political witch hunt.
    The Democrats are the party of No.

    • Robert Lehmert

      No evidence? Evidence is produced during discovery, and admitted during trial, if any. I can sense you’re in a hurry for this to go away but that 1) isn’t going to happen and 2) highlights the huge split between normal Republicans and the Alex Jones-Brietbart-Limbaugh wing. Why, just today there was a nice illustration of how normal Republicans feel about this circus they find themselves in. At any rate, just be patient, this won’t take too much longer before the subpoenas and indictments flow. https://tinyurl.com/l7xg8kn

      • Steve Baker

        I hope it hangs around for a while actually. It will make it funnier in the end when there no evidence because theres no crime.
        “Evidence is produced during discovery” there’s no discovery without a crime first.

        • Robert Lehmert

          “• John O. Brennan, the former director of the C.I.A., said publicly for the first time Tuesday that he was concerned about possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.

          • President Trump asked two top intelligence officials to deny the existence of any evidence of collusion between his campaign and Russia, former officials said. Both of the intelligence officials are testifying before lawmakers on Tuesday.”

          “Mr. Trump asked two of the country’s top intelligence officials to make public statements saying there was no evidence of collusion between his campaign and Russian officials, hoping to undercut an F.B.I. investigation into meddling by Russia in the 2016 presidential election, two former American officials said.

          The requests were made in late March to Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, and Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the chief of the National Security Agency. Both men rebuffed the request, which they saw as an inappropriate effort to inject politics into an intelligence and law enforcement matter, the former officials said.” https://tinyurl.com/ljlqtzp

    • David Bell

      It is interesting that you think someone conspiring with a hostile foreign government to hack ones political enemies for the purpose of swinging an election is not a crime.

      It is more interesting that after your endless insistence that no evidence of this collusion exists; you are now claiming “So what if Trump colluded with a hostile foreign government to swing an election, what’s so bad about that?”

      Glad to say I called this months ago; first the response is to angrily declare he didn’t do it, now it’s to angrily declare so what if he did.

      • Steve Baker

        I don’t think someone conspired with a hostile foreign government to hack ones
        political enemies for the purpose of swinging an election.
        The FBI told both Parties that hacking attempts were happening. The Dems were so smugg about winning, they didn’t do anything.

        But Tell me specifically what crime was committed?
        Why would Jonathan Turley or Alan Dershowitz claim there was no crime?
        Your false claim is that Trump did something (not sure what) and that he committed a crime (not sure what).
        Meanwhile the plot thickens with the death of Seth, doesn’t it?

        • David Bell

          Let’s see, he openly calls on Russia to do this, has his closest advisors secretly meet with Russia, and subsequently lie about it; but that doesn’t constitute evidence in your mind?

          Look up the legal definition of collusion in a felony in your unclear on what Trump did. Look up obstruction of justice if your unclear on what he is doing now.

          As I don’t know Turley or Dershowitz; you’d have to ask them.

          My true claim is that Trump colluded with a hostile foreign government to hack his enemies and swing an election, as I have said several times over.

          As for Seth, you mean the death even the right wing propagandists at Fox News apologized for lying about?

          • Steve Baker

            Whether Trump did or did not collude with a hostile foreign government is not a crime. There is a difference between bad behavior and unlawful behavior.
            leaving Americans to die in BenGhazi was not a crime it was bad behavior.

          • David Bell

            Knowingly aiding a foreign government committing a felony on us soil is a crime.

            Lying about Benghazi is not a crime, just bad behavior.

    • Robert Lehmert

      “Jared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports.

      Ambassador Sergei Kislyak reported to his superiors in Moscow that Kushner, son-in-law and confidant to then-President-elect Trump, made the proposal during a meeting on Dec. 1 or 2 at Trump Tower, according to intercepts of Russian communications that were reviewed by U.S. officials. Kislyak said Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications.” https://tinyurl.com/ycvl9zx4