The Justice Department’s decision to appoint a special prosecutor to look into Russian influence and other matters will “severely” limit the investigations by various congressional committees, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on Thursday. “So one of the losers in this decision is the public,” Graham said, following a closed-door briefing by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who made the decision to appoint former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel. Graham pointed to the recent testimony of former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who gave their side of the story at a public hearing.
“I think that opportunity has been lost, maybe for the greater good, but there are a lot of people in that room who were shocked that when a special counsel has been appointed, that Congress has limitations on what we can do.” Graham said congressional committees and subcommittees will now find it difficult to subpoena the records of somebody like former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn or to call former FBI Director James Comey to testify: “If I were Mr. Mueller, I would jealously guard the witness pool,” Graham said. — Criminal investigation? The senator said counterintelligence investigations, such as the ones being conducted by Congress, do not need a special prosecutor, but “a criminal investigation might.”
A reporter asked if Rosenstein confirmed that the investigation into Russian influence and possible coordination with Trump associates is now a criminal investigation. “I never got to ask my question specifically about that,” Graham said. “But the takeaway I had is that everything he said is that you need to treat this investigation as if it may be a criminal investigation. “So I think the biggest legal change seems to be that Mr. Mueller is going to proceed forward with the idea of a criminal investigation, versus the counterintelligence investigation. There (were) no facts laid out as to why you would change that, but appointing a special counsel has created, I think, a dynamic for Congress that’s going have to be leery of crossing into Mr. Mueller’s lane because the possibility of a criminal investigation.”
Graham said the decision to appoint a special prosecutor is good news for the next FBI director, because “now that you have a special counsel, the new FBI director doesn’t have to worry about riding herd over an investigation of the man who appointed him.” And he said Congress can now get back to work on other matters: “One of the side benefits of this is that now Congress has been pretty much sidelined, not completely but pretty much, and we can go back to dealing with legislative matters that affect the American people. “So the bottom line here is, the president may not have liked this decision. It was made, I had questions about it, I honor it. You couldn’t have picked a better man to do the job, and I think most people in that meeting are generally okay with the idea of a special counsel.
CNS News: Sen. Graham: Appointment of Special Prosecutor Is a Loss for the Public; Crimps Congress