Republican Congressman calls for independent prosecutor to investigate Donald Trump

Laurel Raymond

Laurel Raymond General Reporter, Think Progress

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) said on Friday night that an independent special prosecutor should investigate potential ties between Russia and the Donald Trump campaign.

“You’re right that you cannot have somebody — a friend of mine, Jeff Sessions — who was on the campaign and who is an appointee,” Issa said on HBO’s Real Time. “You’re going to need to use the special prosecutor’s statute and office.” He also added that it wouldn’t be enough to hand the job instead to the deputy attorney general, who is also a political appointee.

Issa formerly served as the head of the House Oversight committee, where he conducted repeated investigations of the Obama White House. Issa once called Obama “one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times.” Issa’s high-theater investigations, however, often failed to show direct culpability on the part of President Obama or his White House.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD), the ranking Democrat on the committee, said that the four years of Issa’s leadership “were filled with acrimony, partisanship and sometimes vulgar displays” when Issa handed the gavel to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT).

Issa’s comments on Friday came after extensive prodding by Real Time host Bill Maher — at first, he said the investigation would be carried out within the House and Senate intelligence committees, which is a favored GOP line.

But in saying to Maher that that wouldn’t be enough, Issa took a lonely stance in the Republican party. Those Republicans in Congress who have called for an investigation into the Russian hacking have thus far mostly insisted that such an investigation be carried out in congressional committees.

Instead, Issa’s comments echo the calls of Congressional Democrats, many of whom have called for Sessions to recuse himself and for a special investigation to look into the allegations.

The FBI is currently conducting its own investigation into the Russian hacking of the 2016 election, and allegations of contact between Russians known to U.S. intelligence and advisers on the Trump campaign.

As it stands, however, the results of that investigation will be turned over to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has not recused himself. Sessions, as Issa says, was heavily involved in the Trump campaign, the very thing under investigation.

Currently, Republicans hold both houses of Congress, and Republicans in charge of critical committees have been reluctant to investigate allegations against President Donald Trump.

Calls for an independent investigation grew stronger this week as a result of the news that White House chief of staff Reince Priebus had contacted the FBI to request that it publicly knock down reports about the ongoing investigation. This contact appears to violate DOJ guidelines, and depending on the exact nature of Priebus’ request — which is currently disputed — this request may also have violated federal law.

The Trump administration also deputized key lawmakers in this attempt. On Friday, the Washington Post broke news that the White House asked the heads of both the House and Senate intelligence committees, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), to counter allegations in the press about the extent of the Trump campaign’s contact with Russia.

Burr and Nunes are currently in charge of the congressional investigations. Nunes served as a member of Trump’s transition team.

A spokesman for Nunes told the Post that the congressman had already been challenging the story to reporters, and “at the request of a White House communications aide,” delivered the same message to another reporter. Burr, in an interview, also acknowledged “having conversations about” the Russia-related news coverage, and had spoken with news organizations to dispute the articles.

“I’ve had those conversations,” Burr told the Post, saying he thought the comments were appropriate and adding, “I felt I had something to share that didn’t breach my responsibilities to the committee in an ongoing investigation.”