March 08, 2017
President Trump’s nominees for Deputy Attorney general and Associate Attorney general appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday for their confirmation hearing, which took on added importance, given Attorney General Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from any investigation dealing with the Trump campaign and Russian meddling in the U.S. election.
Even before Rod Rosenstein and Rachel Brand testified, the committee’s ranking Democrat Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) called for a special prosecutor to investigate the alleged Russia-Trump collusion — for which there is still no evidence after months of investigation.
Feinstein also said that being “nice” and having “impressive credentials” are not enough to qualify Rosenstein and Brand for their proposed jobs:
“We need independent, fair-minded public servants who will adhere to the rule of law and look out for everyone in this country, not just the powerful or well-connected. We need steel spines, not weak knees when it comes to political independence in the Department of Justice,” Feinstein said.
“And there is a real danger, I believe, that the Justice Department could become politicized.” Feinstein never asked for an independent special counsel when then-attorney general Eric Holder was involved in the Fast and Furious scandal.
Later, Feinstein asked Rosenstein if — given Sessions’ recusal from all matters involving the Trump campaign — he would support the appointment of an independent special counsel to look into Russian meddling and possible Russian connections with Trump associates.
Rosenstein noted that if there were a need for a special counsel, Acting Attorney General Dana Boente, appointed by President Obama, “currently has full authority to appoint one.”
He said he would not be in a position to overrule current DOJ officials without having access to the facts that informed their decisions.
Asked to clarify, Rosenstein said, “I think the answer is, I’m simply not in a position to answer that question because I don’t know the information that they know.” But he added that when he is in that position, he would overrule his predecessors’ decisions if he believes they are mistaken.
Rosenstein told the committee he’s “willing to appoint a special counsel whenever I determine that it’s appropriate, based upon the policies and procedures of the Justice Department.”