Justice nominees pass committee, will advance to see full Senate
Senate Democrats on Monday supported the nomination of Rod Rosenstein for the No. 2 spot in the Justice Department, despite his refusal to promise to appoint a special prosecutor to handle the probe of Russia’s interference in the presidential election.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ has recused himself from a probe into Russian hacking and its influence on the presidential election, leaving the responsibility to fall to his deputy attorney general.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 19 to 1 to advance Mr. Rosenstein’s nomination for the position to the full Senate.
Several Democratic senators noted their support for Mr. Rosenstein as well as their desire to see him ultimately appoint a special prosecutor to handle the Russia probe.
“He has a reputation for integrity that is unusual for this administration’s nominees,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat. “But if confirmed, he will inherit a situation that no Justice Department nominee has faced since 1973: an active criminal investigation into a sitting president’s campaign and administration.”
Noting the circumstances warrant the appointment of special counsel, Mr. Leahy said he would support Mr. Rosenstein’s nomination “because I expect him to do the right thing when facing such pivotal issues.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Democrat, was the lone “no” vote against Mr. Rosenstein.
“I have asked him for a commitment that he will do it. So far he has not given that commitment and therefore I will vote against him today and I will work against him as long as he declines to give that commitment,” Mr. Blumenthal said.
During his confirmation hearing in February, Mr. Rosenstein, who has served as the U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland under both Republican and Democrat administrations, resisted calls from Democrats to promise to appoint special counsel to handle the investigation. He said while he has no knowledge of the facts of the FBI’s probe, he was “not aware” of any basis that would disqualify him from overseeing such an investigation.
At Monday’s hearing, the Senate committee also considered the nomination of Rachel Brand for associate attorney general — which proved more divisive. The committee vote fell along party lines, with 11 Republicans voting for her nomination and nine Democrats voting against it.
Sen. Dick Durbin, Illinois Democrat, outlined several reasons for his opposition to Ms. Brand, who has previously served as assistant attorney general for legal policy at the Justice Department during President George W. Bush’s administration and on the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board after nomination by President Obama.
Mr. Durbin said Ms. Brand’s refusal to agree to recuse herself from any matters involving the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, for whom she previously worked, as well as her refusal to address his questions on civil rights issues fueled his decision not to support her nomination.
In a written questionnaire, Ms. Brand declined to answer a series of Mr. Durbin’s questions about voting rights and the DOJ’s decision this year to reverse its position and ask for a judge to dismiss its earlier claim that a Texas voter ID law was enacted with the intention of discriminating against minority voters.
“Because that case involves pending litigation, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on it,” Ms. Brand wrote of the Texas case.
It was unclear when the full Senate might vote on the nominations.