Senate votes to confirm Rosenstein as deputy attorney general

Senate votes to confirm Rosenstein as deputy attorney general
© Greg Nash

The Senate voted 94-6 Tuesday to confirm Rod Rosenstein as deputy attorney general.

Rosenstein will be in charge of overseeing the investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election, including potential connections between Trump campaign officials and Moscow.

He could also decide whether the Justice Department will pursue charges against current or former Trump officials.

Rosenstein will face near immediate pressure from lawmakers to appoint a special prosecutor to oversee the investigation and any potential charges that spin out of it.

Top Democrats, who announced their support for Rosenstein this week, signaled that they think Rosenstein will ultimately side with them.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerConscience protections for health-care providers should be standard Pension committee must deliver on retirement promise Dem super PAC launches ad defending Donnelly on taxes MORE (D-N.Y.) said that Rosenstein told him during a private meeting that “he would appoint a special counsel to conduct that investigation if one is required.”

“He has promised to give this careful consideration. I believe if he studies the department regulations, he will come to the same conclusion many of us have, that a special counsel is merited,” he added.

Rosenstein made similar comments during his hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this year while declining to commit to appointing a special prosecutor.

Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinTrump vows tougher borders to fight opioid epidemic Clinton: 'I meant no disrespect' with Trump voter comments Lawmakers rally to defend Mueller after McCabe exit MORE (D-Ill.) said that the best way for Rosenstein to oversee the Russia-Trump investigation with “independence, diligence and integrity” would be to appoint a special prosecutor.

“If Mr. Rosenstein does not appoint a special counsel, the spotlight will be on him personally to make sure the investigation is conducted properly no matter where it leads. I hope he exercises good judgment,” Durbin said.

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsAttorneys for Trump, Mueller hold face-to-face meeting to discuss potential interview topics: report Holder: Sessions needs to 'have the guts' to say no to Trump Trump adds to legal team after attacks on Mueller MORE has recused himself from any investigations tied to the Trump campaign amid blowback over his own conversations with the Russian ambassador while a member of Trump's campaign and transition team.

The Washington Post reported earlier this year that Sessions had spoken twice with the Russian ambassador last year, even though he told Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenAcademy president accused of sexual harassment: report Top Nike executive resigns amid workplace complaints: report Met opera fires conductor after sexual misconduct probe MORE (D-Minn.) during his confirmation hearing he had not had communications with the Russians.

Democrats have praised Rosenstein, pointing to his work for both Republican and Democratic administrations. He was confirmed by a voice vote in 2005 to be U.S. attorney for Maryland.

The move was a break from Sessions’s attorney general nomination, which was opposed by every Democratic senator expect Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSenate GOP: We will grow our majority in midterms CIA torture could stymie nominee An upset, yes, but a short victory lap for Democrat Lamb in Pennsylvania MORE (D-W.Va.) — who is up for reelection in a state carried by Trump.

Of the six Democrats who voted against ending debate on Rosenstein’s nomination earlier this week, four — Sens. Cory Booker (N.J.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandCoalition presses Transportation Dept. for stricter oversight of driverless cars Do Dems need someone people like to beat Trump? Franchisers blitz Congress in search of liability shield MORE (N.Y.), Kamala Harris (Calif.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenFix the flaw in financial self-regulation Power struggle threatens to sink bank legislation Feinstein faces new pressure from left over CIA nominee MORE (Mass.) — are considered potential 2020 White House contenders.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) also opposed Rosenstein’s nomination because he wouldn’t promise to appoint a special prosecutor.

“Mr. Rosenstein has said that he wants to be approved by the Senate before he decides whether to appoint a special prosecutor, but that delay will mean that a man who was hired and can be fired by President Trump will decide whether the Trump administration will face a thorough and complete investigation,” he said. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate tees up Yemen vote for Tuesday Senate confirms Trump's border chief House leaves out ObamaCare fix from must-pass funding bill MORE (R-Ky.) knocked Democrats on Monday, accusing them of slow-walking Rosenstein’s nomination even though he’s received broad bipartisan support.

“[This is] the latest in a long pattern this year of needless Democratic obstruction that is not intended to change a result, just delay for delay’s sake,” he said from the Senate floor.