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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 SchumerChuck SchumerLawmakers react to guilty verdict in Chauvin murder trial: 'Our work is far from done' Overnight Health Care: Johnson & Johnson pause seen as 'responsible' in poll | Women turning out more than men for COVID-19 vaccines 'Real Housewives of the GOP' — Wannabe reality show narcissists commandeer the party 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 DurbinDick DurbinGOP eyes new strategy to derail Biden infrastructure plan White House defends 'aspirational' goal of 62,500 refugees Biden on refugee cap: 'We couldn't do two things at once' 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 SessionsGarland rescinds Trump-era memo curtailing consent decrees Biden picks vocal Trump critics to lead immigration agencies The Hill's Morning Report - Biden assails 'epidemic' of gun violence amid SC, Texas shootings 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 Franken#MeWho? The hypocritical silence of Kamala Harris The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate Dems face unity test; Tanden nomination falls Gillibrand: Cuomo allegations 'completely unacceptable' 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 ManchinJoe ManchinBiden dispatches Cabinet members to sell infrastructure plan On The Money: Treasury creates hub to fight climate change | Manchin throws support behind union-backed PRO Act | Consumer bureau rolls out rule to bolster CDC eviction ban Miners union to back Biden on green energy if it retains jobs 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 GillibrandIntelligence leaders warn of threats from China, domestic terrorism Jon Stewart accuses VA of being 'an obstacle' to burn pits medical care Family policy that could appeal to the right and the left MORE (N.Y.), Kamala Harris (Calif.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenLawmakers react to guilty verdict in Chauvin murder trial: 'Our work is far from done' World passes 3 million coronavirus deaths Poll: 56 percent say wealth tax is part of solution to inequality 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 McConnellMcConnell vents over 'fake news' The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Tensions rise as U.S. waits for Derek Chauvin verdict Trump looking 'beyond seriously' at 2024 run 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.