Hirono Calls for Special Prosecutor to Investigate Russia Ties
US Senator Mazie K. Hirono took to the Senate floor today to continue her call for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the Trump administration’s ties to Russia and what she called an “interference in our democracy.”
In her address, she said, “Most recently, the Washington Post reported that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein threatened to resign after the White House misrepresented his role in the decision to fire Director Comey. CNN reported that President Trump fired Director Comey because he would not provide ‘assurance of personal loyalty.’ And both CNN and the Wall Street Journal reported that the decision to fire Director Comey came after the FBI’s investigation was accelerating.”
Sen. Hirono continued saying, “This kind of presidential interference in an ongoing investigation is unprecedented, suspicious, and deeply concerning. These revelations, and those that are sure to come, further argue in favor of appointing a special prosecutor to fully investigate the Russia/Trump matter. A special prosecutor with full autonomy can follow the evidence wherever it leads and prosecute as appropriate. I call upon Republicans of conscience to stand up and join the call for a special prosecutor.”
US Representative Tusli Gabbard also weighed in on the firing of Comey in a Facebook post, writing: “Although Director Comey lost credibility with the American people long ago, his abrupt firing further undermines the American people’s trust in the FBI and its investigation. Two things need to happen now. (1) We need a non-partisan FBI Director who can be trusted by all the American people. (2) The investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia must be carried forward in a fair, non-partisan, thorough way. This is why I’ve long called for an independent commission or special prosecutor to conduct this investigation in a way that is transparent.”
In a White House Press Briefing on Wednesday, Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders answered questions on the topic:
Q And just a real quick question on the meetings this morning. The President is accused by Democrats of trying to circumvent the Russia investigation by firing Comey; he meets with the Russian Foreign Minister and the Russian Ambassador to the United States. He’s accused of being Nixonian; he meets with Richard Nixon’s Secretary of State. The timing of all of this, is it just ironic or is this the President poking a finger in his critic’s eye?
MS. SANDERS: Look, these were meetings that have been on the books for a while. They didn’t just happen this morning. There’s not a strategy to go after the Democrats on this.
I think, frankly, the saddest thing is that the Democrats are trying to politicize and take away from something that the President should be doing. He should be meeting with the Foreign Minister. He should be meeting with people like Kissinger. And for them to try to attack him for doing his job, — maybe they should spent a little more time doing their jobs, and we wouldn’t have all the problems that we do.
Q Sarah, isn’t it true that the President had already decided to fire James Comey, and he asked the Justice Department to put together the rationale for that firing?
MS. SANDERS: No.
Q When did he make the decision?
MS. SANDERS: He made the decision for — the final decision to move forward with it was yesterday. But I know that he’s been contemplating it for a while.
Q But how do you explain what Dianne Feinstein says, that the President told her that he was concerned with the mess at the FBI and asked the Justice Department to look into it?
MS. SANDERS: I can’t speak for Senator Feinstein, but I did speak directly to the President and heard directly from him that he, again, had been considering letting Director Comey go pretty much since the day he took office, but that there was no request by him to have a review at the Department of Justice.
Q But was the reason for the firing what was written by the Deputy Attorney General? Is that why he did it?
MS. SANDERS: That was, I think, the final piece that moved the President to make that quick and decisive action yesterday.
Q What did he mean in the letter that he wrote informing Comey that he was being fired — he said, on three separate occasions Comey had told him that “I am not under investigation.” What were those three occasions that the FBI Director told the President that he wasn’t under investigation?
MS. SANDERS: I’m not going to get into the specifics of their conversations, but I can tell you that Director Comey relayed that information to the President.
Q Following up on that, Sarah, did the President ask Direct Comey whether he was under investigation when they were
— when they had these meetings?
MS. SANDERS: Again, I’m not going to go into the specifics of their conversations.
Q Is the White House concerned that — he obviously made a decision to stick that in the letter and to make that public. Are there any concerns that it was inappropriate that they had that type of a conversation?
MS. SANDERS: No.
Q How important was the FBI Director’s failure to stop the leaks coming out of the FBI to the President? How important was that?
MS. SANDERS: I think that’s probably one of the many factors. You can’t deny somebody — that that wasn’t a problem. And so I think that was just another one of the many reasons that he no longer had the confidence of the President or the rest of the FBI.
Q Can we expect more firings from the Justice Department?
MS. SANDERS: Not that I’m aware of today. (Laughter.)
Q Going forward, does the President want the Department of Justice to shut down what he’s called a “taxpayer-funded charade” investigation?
MS. SANDERS: He wants them to continue with whatever they see appropriate and sees fit, just the same as he’s encouraged the House and Senate committees to continue any ongoing investigations.
Look, the bottom line is any investigation that was happening on Monday is still happening today. That hasn’t changed. And, in fact, we encourage them to complete this investigation so we can put it behind us and we can continue to see exactly what we’ve been saying for nearly a year, there’s no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. And we’d love for that to be completed so that we can all move on and focus on the things that, frankly, I think most of Americans are concerned with.
Q Even if they keep on wasting taxpayer money, he wants it to continue?
MS. SANDERS: Look, nobody wants to waste taxpayer money. I think the President has made a priority of this. That’s another reason we’d love for it to come to completion. But at the same time, I know that you all will not let this go until it does. And so we’d love for that to be completed. Let’s put it behind us. Let’s move on, and let’s focus on what we need to do to turn our country around.
Q Sarah, two questions. One, was the White House aware at the time of this decision and announcement that grand jury subpoenas in the case of Michael Flynn had just gone out?
MS. SANDERS: No, nor would we — should we have been.
Q Do you know anything about that process?
MS. SANDERS: No, I don’t. I’d have to refer you to —
Q And does the White House believe that if these FBI investigations are going to proceed in these allegations of Russian interference, do you support continued funding, and support who to lead that investigation? Who is going to be running that right now? Are you confident that that could be McCabe, or does it have to be somebody else?
MS. SANDERS: Right now I believe that would fall to the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein. And we are incredibly confident in his abilities, as I believe you can tell by the rest of the Senate, including many Democrats, are as well. Given the fact that he was confirmed 94 to 6 and had overwhelming praise from both sides of the aisle, I think there’s complete confidence in him.
And another reason, frankly, for Director Comey to be out of the way so that they can have somebody leading this effort that everybody across the board has respect and confidence in. Nobody wants this to be finished and completed more than us so that we can focus on what we need to do here.
Q Sarah, the President said — or excuse me — Sean Spicer said just a week ago today the President has confidence in the Director. So, again, I’m sorry for not understanding this, but what has happened in the last seven days to shake the confidence? Was Sean lying at that point? Or did something happen in the last seven days?
MS. SANDERS: Of course, you’d love to add that in. But certainly not. Again, I think one of the big things that took place was the process in the hearing on Wednesday where, again
— not to sound like a broken record, but since you guys keep asking the same questions, I guess it’s only fair that I keep giving the same answers — but you have somebody, the Director of the FBI, who reports to the Deputy Attorney General, going around the chain of command. That’s simply not okay. That’s not something that is allowed in the justice system, nor should it be. That’s a huge problem. That, along with the corrections that had to take place over the last, I believe, 48 hours, those are all big problems and another, I think, kind of final piece that pushed the President to make the decision that he did.
Q Does he regret not doing it earlier, like on January 20th or January 21st?
MS. SANDERS: No, I believe the President wanted to give Director Comey a chance, but he feels that he made the right decision, certainly.
Q Why did he do as he did it, if I could ask? Why did he have one of his long-time security advisors hand-deliver a letter to the FBI when the FBI Director was, in fact, in Los Angeles? Didn’t he deserve a phone call or a face-to-face conversation? Why did he decide to do it like that?
MS. SANDERS: He followed the proper protocol in that process, which is a handwritten notification. And at the same time, no matter how you fire someone, it’s never an easy process, and so he felt like following protocol was the best thing to do.
Q Does he plan to speak to him?
MS. SANDERS: I’m not aware of that conversation.
Q Was the President aware that James Comey asked for more resources in the Russia investigation? And did that factor into his decision to get rid of Mr. Comey, the Director?
MS. SANDERS: Not that I’m aware of, and I think that would be a better question for the Department of Justice.
Q Can I ask a follow-up? On the campaign trail, President Trump frequently said “lock her up,” and he criticized the Department of Justice for not being harsh enough on Hillary Clinton. He actually praised Director Comey in October for having the guts to reopen the investigation. Why was he moved by a letter that said that Director Comey was, if anything, too harsh on Hillary Clinton? Why does that move the President to fire him?
MS. SANDERS: Again, I think you’re looking at two very different positions. The President was wearing a different hat at that time. He was a candidate — not the President. Those circumstances certainly change when you become the President. And again, when you go around the chain of command in the Department of Justice, when you, like I said before, throw a stick of dynamite into the Department of Justice, that’s a big problem and it’s one that cannot be ignored.
Q But he already knew that, didn’t he, Sarah? He already knew what Mr. Comey had done.
MS. SANDERS: I think that this was — my understanding is Wednesday was the first time the Director had openly and publicly made that statement and made that clear.