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Manchin joins call for special inquiry of alleged Russian interference


Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has added his voice to the list of those calling for a special investigation into the president’s ties to Russia.

Democrats renewed calls for a special prosecutor Wednesday, a day after President Donald Trump fired James Comey as director of the FBI.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.
Comey publicly announced last month that the FBI was investigating whether the Russian government interfered in the 2016 election, including involvement by the Trump campaign. Days before his firing, Comey asked the Justice Department for more resources for that investigation.

On Wednesday, a Trump spokeswoman said the president had been considering the termination since January.

“Should have done it,” Manchin said, before adding, “I mean, if that’s the case.

“I would have recommended back then, if you were going to make the changes, make the changes from the get-go,” he said. “It makes it harder to do that right now without having the appearance there might be more to this than just saying ‘It’s time we got rid of him.’ Timing is everything.”

The president, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, have said, through letters released publicly, that they followed the guidance of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who wrote, in a letter dated Tuesday, that he blamed Comey’s handling of “the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails.” The letter said Comey usurped the attorney general’s authority by announcing that the case would be closed without prosecution, on July 6, 2016, and that he should not have held a news conference.

A spokesperson for Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., sent a statement Wednesday thanking Comey for his service and denied an interview request, pointing to the senator’s busy schedule.

“Going forward it is incumbent upon the president to nominate a fair and independent person to lead the FBI, and provide the American people with confidence that all investigations are handled appropriately and without political interference,” she said.

The spokesperson did not respond to a question asking if the senator saw a need for a special investigation.

During a conference call with reporters, Manchin was asked about reports that Comey had asked the Justice Department for more resources.

After pausing to consult staffers, Manchin asked the reporter, “Did you see that in some sort of report or release?”

When told that it had been widely reported, Manchin responded: “That’s a fact.”

Manchin said he wants to see a “special independent prosecutor take the case.” He recommended it be “the highest-ranking person in the FBI,” who would report to Congress.

“It would have to be a high-ranking career person that can’t be in jeopardy of losing their job or fired,” he said.

Manchin said he doesn’t want the investigation to be “a witch hunt from one side of the aisle” or “a protection of administration or anybody else on the other side of the aisle.”

He said members of the Senate Intelligence Committee had learned that Comey had sought more assistance within the last week to 10 days. He added that Comey “was kind of rudderless for a while there,” noting that Loretta Lynch had left her post as U.S. attorney general and Attorney General Jeff Sessions had recused himself from the investigation.

Manchin is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which also is investigating alleged interference by the Russian government.

“It’s not going to change how we’re going to do our job,” he said.

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