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 SchumerJohnson eyes Irish border in Brexit negotiations Lewandowski on potential NH Senate run: If I run, 'I'm going to win' Appropriators warn White House against clawing back foreign aid 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 DurbinSenate Democrats push Trump to permanently shutter migrant detention facility House panel investigating decision to resume federal executions To combat domestic terrorism, Congress must equip law enforcement to fight rise in white supremacist attacks 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 SessionsDOJ should take action against China's Twitter propaganda Lewandowski says he's 'happy' to testify before House panel The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy 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 FrankenNative American advocates question 2020 Democrats' commitment Reid says he wishes Franken would run for Senate again Al Franken urges Trump to give new speech after shootings: 'Try to make it sound like you're sincere, even if you're not' 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) ManchinSunday shows - Recession fears dominate Manchin: Trump has 'golden opportunity' on gun reforms Trump vows to 'always uphold the Second Amendment' amid ongoing talks on gun laws 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 GillibrandCastro qualifies for next Democratic primary debates The Hill's Morning Report - Trump searches for backstops amid recession worries 2020 Democrats react to NYPD firing of officer in Garner case: 'Finally' MORE (N.Y.), Kamala Harris (Calif.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenHarry Reid: 'Decriminalizing border crossings is not something that should be at the top of the list' Warren offers plan to repeal 1994 crime law authored by Biden Panel: Jill Biden's campaign message 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 McConnellPelosi, Schumer press for gun screenings as Trump inches away The malware election: Returning to paper ballots only way to prevent hacking First House Republican backs bill banning assault weapons 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.