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.

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Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer: Trump should take Kim Jong Un off 'trip coin' Overnight Finance: Trump signs repeal of auto-loan policy | Justices uphold contracts that bar employee class-action suits | US, China trade war 'on hold' Free traders applaud Trump as China tariff threat recedes 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 DurbinHouse easily passes prison reform bill backed by Trump This week: House GOP regroups after farm bill failure Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — Trump hits federally funded clinics with new abortion restrictions 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 SessionsDeVos grilled on civil rights for students House conservatives introduce resolution calling for second special counsel The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — How long can a Trump-DOJ accord survive? 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 FrankenEx-White House ethics counsel: More evidence against Trump than there ever was against Nixon 100 days after House passage, Gillibrand calls on Senate to act on sexual harassment reform Eric Schneiderman and #MeToo pose challenges for both parties 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) ManchinOvernight Finance: House sends Dodd-Frank rollbacks to Trump | What's in the bill | Trump says there is 'no deal' to help ZTE | Panel approves bill to toughen foreign investment reviews House votes to ease regulation of banks, sending bill to Trump Senators demand answers on Trump’s ZTE deal 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 GillibrandSenators near deal on sexual harassment policy change Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — Trump hits federally funded clinics with new abortion restrictions Dem senators ask drug companies to list prices in ads MORE (N.Y.), Kamala Harris (Calif.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenRising star Abrams advances in Georgia governor race Progressive rise is good news for Sanders, Warren Juan Williams: Trump gives life to the left 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 McConnellTeacher defeats Kentucky state House majority leader in GOP primary Conservatives leery of FBI deal on informant Lobbying world 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.