Three Members of Congress have put Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on notice, sending him a letter making clear that it his duty under federal law to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate President Trump’s ties to Russia.
The letter (below) was posted on the website of Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA) who served four years as a prosecutor in the Air Force JAG Corps and continues to serve as a Colonel in the Air Force Reserves. Lieu penned the letter with Representative Kathleen Rice (D-NY) and Representative Stacey Plaskett (D-VI), both of whom are also former prosecutors.
The letter demonstrates that former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s request for immunity from prosecution is, in itself, a conflict of interest in the investigations of ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. That fact alone, they explain, is sufficient to require an independent investigator.
The Representatives went on to state that the investigation “may implicate President Trump and Attorney General Sessions,” and that even Rosenstein himself cannot be considered unbiased.
“You have a built-in-conflict of interest and cannot exercise independence for an investigation that may implicate either of your bosses (the Attorney General or the President of the United States), upon whom you depend for your employment,” the letter reads.
This letter is legally significant because it is effectively a legal opinion that Rosenstein is obligated to appoint a special prosecutor. A State Attorney General could now use this letter to obtain a court order to force the Deputy AG to take action on the appointment of a Special Counsel as a prosecutor.
New Jersey Attorney Michelle Lependorf believes that this also enables a State Attorney General to sue the Department of Justice to get a judicially appointed independent prosecutor.
“The only way we are going to assure a credible, non-partisan investigation of a matter that is so vital to our democracy, is to have a fully independent counsel as the prosecutor,” said Lependorf in exasperation. “At this point, what do we have left to lose by trying?”
She wrote a model complaint in the hope that a member of the Democratic Attorney General’s Association would use it pursue an independent investigation immediately in court by ordering the Deputy Attorney General to ask the courts to appoint a prosecutor.
After Republicans went into investigation overdrive in the 1990’s and came up empty, Congress let that law expire, and to this day there remains no independent prosecutor law on the books in the United States.
Now that America’s top law enforcement agencies are mired in conflicts of interest, it is past time for Republicans in Congress to join their Democratic colleagues in taking action to ensure that an independent investigation is launched without delay.
Grant Stern is the Executive Editor of Occupy Democrats and published author. His new Meet the Candidates 2020 book series is distributed by Simon and Schuster. He's also mortgage broker, community activist and radio personality in Miami, Florida., as well as the producer of the Dworkin Report podcast. Grant is also an occasional contributor to Raw Story, Alternet, and the DC Report, and a senior advisor to the Democratic Coalition