HURON – A special prosecutor is not needed in the ongoing investigation of possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia because the Senate Intelligence Committee that has been charged with the inquiry is a well-established, credible panel that has a good bipartisan working relationship, Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., said Thursday.
Even with the appointment of a special prosecutor, there would still be claims it is partisan in nature, he said in a conference call with reporters.
“You’re not going to get away from partisanship in a special prosecutor,” Rounds said.
The president’s firing of FBI Director James Comey raised eyebrows and questions, and Rounds said he doesn’t understand the timing of it.
But while Trump had the legal authority to do it, it doesn’t happen often and now the media is solely focused on asking why, he said.
Intelligence committee members “are playing the adults in the room” and have the confidence of the Senate, he said.
With the committee in place, Rounds said he sees no need to create another committee, hire staff and find a funding source. The committee has been working on its investigation for months and is getting results that are coming out in public testimony, he said.
“I think it’s the right working group to do it,” he said.
Time and again, those who have had access to all the information up to this point have indicated they have seen no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and any foreign governments, Rounds said.
Still, the investigation is continuing and the committee is not going to quit until it completes its work and issues a report, he said.
“They have assured us they are going to follow it all the way through, they’re going to follow every lead,” Rounds said.
“We’re not pushing them; we told them whatever resources they need they’ve got,” he said. When the investigation is finished, “the American people will have the ability to make up their own minds,” he said.
Touting the need for a special prosecutor is a great political theme for the Democrats, he said.
“They know that it damages the president and they’re not shy about doing that,” Rounds said.
He said Trump’s firing of Comey could have been handled better.
“Part of that I’m going to chalk up to a White House that’s still learning,” he said.
Rounds and other Republicans said the Comey firing “took all the air out of the room” and has diverted attention away from the Senate’s work on a health care plan to replace the Affordable Care Act and tax reform.
But despite the distractions, the Republican caucus continues to meet every day on health care issues, Rounds said.
Senators have a goal of doing what’s right as they draft their plan – one that Rounds says is going to take time – because they know it will impact every American citizen.
He said the 132-page House bill that he is now reading may have provisions that make it into the Senate version.
“I think it’s fair to say we’re not bound to it,” Rounds said.
He said senators recognize the concern and fear that if the health care bill is not done correctly, families could be without coverage.
“And we certainly don’t want that to be an item that we fail to address,” he said.
But there is also the fact that insurance premiums continue to rise, with many families paying more for that than they do for their home mortgage or car loans, he said.
“It does push us to get something done,” he said.
People want assurances that what Congress is doing means they can afford to buy insurance and protect their loved ones, he said.
Rounds said he has been receiving very sincere letters from constituents in South Dakota and is trying to respond to all of their concerns.