(CNN)President Donald Trump and his White House have been adamant: There’s absolutely no need for a special prosecutor to investigate the ties between his 2016 campaign and Russian intelligence operatives.
At the moment, Congressional Republicans — at least the bulk of them — seem content to go along with Trump. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell insisted last week on the Senate floor that “too much is at stake” to appoint a special prosecutor, adding that such an appointment would “only serve to impede the current work being done to not only discover what the Russians may have done but also to let this body and the national security community develop counter measures.”
The public very much disagrees, according to new numbers from a NBC-Wall Street Journal poll released Sunday. Almost eight in ten people — 78% — said they would prefer an investigation led by an independent prosecutor or independent commission. Just 15% said they preferred an investigation led by Congress.
To date, just 11 Republican members — 3 senators and 8 House members — have said a special prosecutor needs to be appointed in order to effectively get to the bottom of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election, according to a count maintained by the Washington Post.
There are a number of investigations ongoing, including those by the FBI and three separate congressional committees. Comey’s firing raised questions about the independence of the FBI investigation. The congressional investigation by the House intelligence committee, has been hampered by partisan sniping and the committee’s chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes had to recuse himself. Another congressional investigation is by a small subcommittee and its leader, Sen. Lindsey Graham, is one of the Republicans who has called for a special prosecutor. That leaves the investigation by the Senate intelligence committee, which has continued relatively drama-free, but any recommendations will still need signoff from a bipartisan group of lawmakers.
While the Senate was in session last week in the midst of Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, the House returns this week from a recess. Almost every member will be subject to questions — and then more questions — about whether and why they do or don’t support an independent prosecutor to oversee the Russia investigation.
Trump himself has done little to assuage concerns returning members might have about the ability of Congress to conduct a fair look into Russia and the 2016 election. The shocking firing of Comey is one thing. The inability of the White House to settle on a single explanation for why Comey was fired rapidly turned into a debacle aided and abetted by the president.
Then, on Friday, Trump threatened Comey to stay silent — floating the possibility that “tapes” might exist of their conversations. White House press secretary Sean Spicer refused to comment on the allegation. And the White House put no surrogates on the Sunday talk shows to elaborate on Trump’s threat