Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) praised the qualifications and record of deputy attorney general nominee Rod Roesenstein on Monday — before voting against him in the Judiciary Committee.
Blumenthal was the lone dissenter in the 19-1 vote to forward Rosenstein’s nomination to the full Senate. The senator and former Connecticut attorney general said Rosenstein, President Donald Trump’s choice for the No. 2 official at the Justice Department, has a good record but then suggested he could not be trusted to oversee an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election campaign.
“I believe a special prosecutor is absolutely necessary to do the investigation and to hold accountable anyone responsible for the colluding with the Russians.”
“I agree with my colleagues that he is a nominee with a very impressive background and qualifications,” he said. “And I would vote for him if he agreed to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the Russian interference in our past election, the potential involvement or collusive action involving Trump associates, in that meddling, and other matters related to that set of incidents.”
Rosenstein has a long track record of bipartisanship. Originally appointed U.S. attorney for Maryland by then-President George W. Bush, Rosenstein stayed on the job at the request of President Barack Obama and won plaudits from law enforcement officials and political leaders of both parties.
But that was not good enough for Blumenthal, who expressed frustration that Rosenstein would not promise — before even taking office — to appoint a special prosecutor.
“I believe a special prosecutor is absolutely necessary to do the investigation and to hold accountable anyone responsible for colluding with the Russians,” Blumenthal said. “The facts have been established that the Russians sought to affect the outcome. Whether they did or not is immaterial.”
The decision about how to proceed with the investigation would fall to Rosenstein, if confirmed, because Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself due to his role as a surrogate for the Trump campaign.
At his confirmation hearing in March, Rosenstein said he would be open to appointing a special prosecutor but could not make that decision without having all of the facts that he could not know before he takes office.
“I view it as an issue of principle that as a nominee for deputy attorney general, I should not be promising to take action on a particular case,” he said at the time. “I believe that if I were to do this in this case, some future deputy attorney general nominee would be … asked to make a similar commitment, and they’d say, ‘Rosenstein did it; why won’t you?’”
But for Blumenthal, a special prosecutor evidently is an absolute litmus test. He called Russian interference an “act of war” and argued that only a special prosecutor would have the “independence and impartiality to investigate vigorously and thoroughly” any potential wrongdoing.
“I have asked him for a commitment that he will do it,” he said. “And so far, he has not given that commitment, so I will vote against him today, and I will work against him as long as he declines to give that commitment.”
Joseph diGenova, the former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, told LifeZette that there is no reason for Rosnethal to make such a commitment — particularly when there has been no proof of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign that Democrats so desperately want to demonstrate.
“Blumenthal is an attorney general hack from a northeastern state … Nobody cares what he says,” he said.