CLC Calls for Appointment of DOJ Special Counsel to Investigate Russian Interference in 2016 Presidential Election
WASHINGTON – The Campaign Legal Center (CLC) believes the effect of President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey – at a time he was directing an investigation of serious allegations of Russian interference in our 2016 presidential election, and possible involvement with President Trump’s campaign – makes imperative the appointment of a special counsel by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), and the creation of a special committee by Congress, to examine these matters.
“These extraordinary occurrences unavoidably have the appearance of an effort by the president to undermine the investigation of Russian attempts to intervene in our elections and disrupt our democracy,” said CLC President Trevor Potter, a former Republican commissioner and chair of the Federal Election Commission. “And the firing of Director Comey after his public statements about the FBI investigation will be understandably viewed by many as an attempt by the president and the leaders of the DOJ to close down the investigation.
“In order to protect the FBI investigation and to restore the integrity and public credibility of the DOJ, the deputy attorney general should appoint a special counsel to take over the investigation. This committee can create a public record, separating the facts from rumor and unfounded allegations.
“In addition,” Potter continued, “Congress should create a special committee to look into foreign interference in the 2016 elections, and also to investigate the circumstances of Director Comey’s firing. Once its investigation is complete, a special committee can offer legislative recommendations to protect and strengthen the integrity of our democracy and prevent future foreign efforts to interfere with our elections.”
Prior to his dismissal of the FBI director, President Trump repeatedly attacked the ongoing FBI and Congressional investigations, tweeting last week: “the Trump/Russia story was an excuse used by the Democrats as justification for losing the election” and tweeting Monday: “The Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax, when will this taxpayer funded charade end?”
The latter tweet occurred after Director Comey had testified to Congress that the FBI was investigating Russian involvement in the election, and amounts to presidential interference with the existing investigation. According to several news accounts today, days before he was fired, Comey had requested “a significant increase in resources for the bureau’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the presidential election,” thereby providing the attorney general and deputy attorney general (and the White House, if this request was shared) with additional notice of the seriousness of the investigation. Press reports indicate that in the same time period, the president requested DOJ leadership produce a memorandum justifying the dismissal of Director Comey.
Further, despite recusing himself from matters pertaining to the Russia investigation, it has been reported that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions involved himself in the firing of Director Comey, who had ultimate authority over the Russia investigation, calling into question whether he would involve himself in any other DOJ decisions that directly affect the leadership of the investigation.
DOJ regulations provide that the attorney general, “or in cases in which the Attorney General is recused, the Acting Attorney General”: will appoint a Special Counsel when he or she determines that a criminal investigation of a person or matter is warranted and: (a) That investigation or prosecution of that person or matter by a United States Attorney’s Office or litigating Division of the Department of Justice would present a conflict of interest for the Department or other extraordinary circumstances; and (b) That under the circumstances, it would be in the public interest to appoint an outside Special Counsel to assume responsibility for this matter. 28 C.F.R. § 600.1 (emphasis added). That standard is clearly satisfied here.