Despite Comey firing, still no need for 'independent counsel'


A bipartisan group of 179 former federal prosecutors is calling on the Justice Department to appoint an independent counsel to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, following President Trump's abrupt firing this week of James Comey as FBI director.

Whoever is selected for the position will face intense scrutiny from Democrats and Republicans and will be responsible for overseeing the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, along with the typical responsibilities of managing an agency of over 35,000 employees.

Trump said the candidates were "outstanding people" and "very well known". The other two candidates being interviewed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein on Saturday are former Justice Department criminal division leader Alice Fisher and New York State Court of Appeals Judge Michael J. Garcia.

The decision is subject to confirmation by the US Senate, where Republicans have a majority.

At the White House, reporters asked Press Secretary Sean Spicer if that was meant as a message.

Trump told NBC News that Comey had asked for the meeting because he wanted to stay on as FBI Director.

Mr. Spicer said Friday that any problems of accuracy were due to Mr. Trump's "busy and robust schedule". He also reportedly said he wanted it to move ahead without pressure from the White House. He characterized the ongoing probe into the Trump campaign's connections with Russian Federation as "highly significant".

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Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a campaign of interference in the election, USA intelligence agencies concluded in January, aimed at tilting the vote in Trump's favor.

All along, his spokesmen have maintained that Trump's decision had nothing to do with the ongoing Russian Federation investigation that was being overseen by Comey.

During an interview with Fox News that was recorded on Friday, Trump denied ever asking Comey to pledge his loyalty, but argued it wouldn't have been inappropriate for him to do so.

One of the names the White House has floated as a possible Comey replacement is a former Trump campaign official.

When Holt asked Trump whether he'd asked Rosenstein for his recommendation the day before firing Comey, Trump replied: "What I did was, I was going to fire". The good news for historians is that if such tapes do exist, the Trump administration is required by law to preserve these presidential records and turn them over to the National Archives and Records Administration.

"As a very active President with lots of things happening, it is not possible for my surrogates to stand at podium with flawless accuracy!"

For months, President Donald Trump has complained about leaks of sensitive information that he says are aimed at hurting his administration.