McCain set to offer resolution on special counsel on leaks as early as Tuesday

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) will likely introduce his Senate resolution on Tuesday calling for a special counsel to investigate a recent series of national security leaks, according to a Senate aide.

The resolution could pose a political dilemma for Democrats who have so far not joined calls from McCain and other Republicans for the independent investigation.

McCain first called for an independent special counsel last week to investigate the leaks, which surfaced in a series of recent stories about a U.S. cyberattack on Iran, a terrorist “kill list” and the breaking up of an al Qaeda plot in Yemen.

The White House last week rejected calls in Congress for a special counsel, prompting McCain to ready his nonbinding “Sense of the Senate” resolution.

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The Senate aide declined to elaborate on details about the resolution, but said that McCain would likely unveil it Tuesday, if not soon after.

While the outrage over the intelligence leaks has been staunchly bipartisan — displayed at last week’s joint House and Senate Intelligence Committee press conference — it is Republicans who are pushing for a special counsel to investigate the leaks, not Democrats.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) — who, like McCain, called these leak cases the worst she had seen — has not yet taken a position on whether she supports a special counsel to investigate. She has instead focused on new legislation to curb future leaks.

Democrats have also publicly backed the two U.S. attorneys that Attorney General Eric Holder appointed Friday to investigate and potentially prosecute the disclosures.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) issued a statement Friday shortly after Holder's announcement that said he supported the attorney general's decision.

“He and I discussed this today and I am pleased he has picked strong, capable, independent prosecutors for the investigation,” Leahy said.

But McCain and other Republicans have questioned whether the Justice Department can investigate leaks from within the Obama administration, arguing that an independent investigation would be a better route for a more thorough review.

“This needs a special counsel, someone entirely independent of the Justice Department," McCain said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

McCain has also alleged that the leaks were disclosed for political reasons to help boost President Obama’s image in his reelection campaign.

Obama said at a news conference last week that accusations the leaks were conducted for political purposes was “offensive,” but McCain stood by his charges Sunday.

“Well I think it's offensive what has happened,” McCain said. “It's offensive to the people who are doing the incredibly difficult work of intelligence. It's offensive to our allies who are upset. ... So this is very offensive.”

White House press secretary Jay Carney reiterated at Monday’s press briefing that the Obama administration did not think a special counsel was necessary.

“There is no need for a special counsel,” Carney said. “These things have consistently been investigated when that's appropriate.”

Feinstein and other Democrats have also rejected McCain’s accusations that there was a political calculation from the White House behind the leaks.

Thus far, the Senate and House Intelligence committees have proceeded in a bipartisan fashion, and Feinstein and House Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) say they are working on the legislation together.

But McCain’s resolution could upend the display of bipartisanship, as it could provide a public display of disagreement between the two parties if no Democrats back McCain's resolution.

This story was updated at 4:41 p.m.