Democrats Call For Special Prosecutor To Lead Russia Probe After Comey's Firing
KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
President Trump's decision to fire FBI Director James Comey has made some Republicans on Capitol Hill uncomfortable, but party leaders are rejecting calls by Democrats for a special prosecutor to take over the FBI's Russia investigation. Democrats also want Comey and senior officials at the Justice Department to testify before Congress about the firing. NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis is with us now from the Capitol. Hey, Sue.
SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Hey, Kelly.
MCEVERS: Let's start with this call for a special prosecutor. On the Senate floor today, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he is against that. What did he say?
DAVIS: You know, McConnell has consistently opposed any outside investigative efforts on Russia meddling in the election. If you remember last December, he also opposed an effort by Arizona Republican Senator John McCain to form a bipartisan-select congressional committee to investigate the scope of Russia meddling.
McConnell's argument - and Republicans are almost universally behind him on this - is that there's no reason that the FBI and the Senate intelligence committee can't handle their inquiries through normal channels. On the floor this morning, McConnell argued that any new investigation at this stage of the game would just get in the way. This is what he had to say.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
MITCH MCCONNELL: Today, we'll no doubt hear calls for a new investigation which could only serve to impede the current work being done to not only to discover what the Russians may have done - also to let this body on the national security community develop countermeasures and war-fighting doctrine to see that it doesn't occur again. Partisan calls should not delay the considerable work of Chairman Burr and Vice Chairman Warner. Too much is at stake.
DAVIS: Those senators he mentioned - Senators Burr and Warner - they run the Senate intelligence committee. They're heading up the investigation. The committee today invited Comey to testify next Tuesday in a closed session, but we do not know yet if Comey will accept that invitation.
MCEVERS: Congressional Democrats up till now have been some of Jim Comey's toughest critics. And several of them had called for him to step down over his handling of the Clinton email investigation. Why are they defending him now?
DAVIS: Well, for starters, Democrats just don't buy the Trump administration's argument that Comey was let go because of the way he handled that Clinton email investigation, particularly when the president and the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, throughout the campaign had praised Comey and the FBI for that very handling.
It was also reported and NPR has confirmed today that Comey was going to make a request to add more resources to the bureau's Russia investigation. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer spoke on the floor about the gravity of the situation. This is what he had to say.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
CHUCK SCHUMER: The topic of this investigation itself is very serious. The possibility that the investigation is being impeded or tampered with is even worse. That threatens the integrity of our criminal justice system and the hallowed American belief in rule of law.
DAVIS: Democrats met today. And they came out say - they're asking for three things. One, they say if there is a special prosecutor, that career officials should be able to figure out who it is - not Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who helped fire Comey - that Comey needs to testify on how all this went down and, three, that Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Rosenstein should come to the Senate and brief them in a classified setting.
MCEVERS: The Senate would have to confirm President Trump's eventual nominee to take over the FBI. I mean what's the early sense of how that would go?
DAVIS: President's nominees only need a simple majority. They can't be filibustered, which means Democrats could slow walk it, but they can't ultimately block it. Republicans, though, are making very clear today they're not going to rubber stamp whoever Trump selects. Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander today said that they will need someone who is, quote, "a person of unquestioned integrity" to lead the FBI and the bureau's Russia investigation.
MCEVERS: NPR's Sue Davis on Capitol Hill, thanks.
DAVIS: You bet.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.