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Calls grow for an independent special prosecutor to investigate Trump campaign ties to Russia

 (Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)
(Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)

Pressure mounted Wednesday for the Justice Department to name an independent special prosecutor to look into whether anyone close to President Trump worked with Russia to sway the election in Trump's favor.

A day after Trump abruptly fired FBI Director James B. Comey, top Senate Democrats doubled down on their demand for an independent investigation.

Liberal activist groups such as Moveon.org took to social media to rally supporters in front of the White House and at Senate offices around the country to press the Justice Department to wall off the investigation from political interference.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) renewed her call for appointment of a special prosecutor and said Trump's startling decision to fire Comey now is “beyond surprising.”

On March 15, Comey met in a classified session with Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the committee chairman, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), and laid out in detail how the FBI's investigation into Russia's hacking and other actions intended to influence the presidential election, Feinstein said.

The briefing was “rather comprehensive,” Feinstein said Wednesday. "The FBI was precise and presented us with substantial information.”

Feinstein wants Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein to appear before the committee and explain why Comey's firing occurred this week, and not after Trump first took office in January.

Rosenstein laid out the case for Comey to be removed in a three-page memo that the White House released Tuesday.

“To have this happen and happen now is beyond surprising," Feinstein said.

Sen. Richard M. Burr (R-N.C.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said his panel's probe into Russia's role in the election would move forward.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz,), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called for creating a special congressional committee, such as the select committee that investigated the Iran-Contra scandal during the Reagan era.

"Removal of Director Comey only confirms need for select [committee] to investigate," McCain tweeted.

Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who has been critical of Trump, said he did not question the president's authority to fire Comey, and supported the decision.

“Given the recent controversies surrounding the director, I believe a fresh start will serve the FBI and the nation well," Graham said Tuesday night.

The House is on recess, and many senators were caught off guard as the news emerged Tuesday night.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was presiding over an almost empty Senate chamber when an aide slipped him information about the firing.

“It wasn’t expected, but it’s certainly within his prerogative,” Rubio, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters.

He said he didn't think Comey's dismissal would impact the committee's work.

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