Senate Republicans Just Confirmed Trump’s DOJ Nominee With Ties To Russia: Report
In a party-line vote, Senate Republicans confirmed President Trump’s nominee to lead the Justice Department’s Criminal Division despite concerns about his ties to Russia interest that has been under scrutiny by the FBI.
Senators voted 51-48 to approve Brian Benczkowski to be an assistant attorney general, The Hill reports.
Benczkowski was first nominated more than a year ago, in June 2017. His nomination had stalled amid questions about his work at Alfa Bank, a Russian bank that has faced scrutiny in the federal investigation into Moscow’s influence on the 2016 presidential election.
Democrats have pounced on the selection of Benczkowski, saying it’s an attack on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation as he probes Russian election interference and potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.
“I cannot believe the Republican Party just rubber-stamped a nominee to head the Justice Department’s Criminal Division who has no prosecutorial experience, who chose to represent a Russian bank with deep ties to [Russian President] Vladimir Putin, and who would not commit to recuse himself from Russia-related matters if confirmed. This could prove to be a historic mistake,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, also questioned if Benczkowski would give Attorney General Jeff Sessions insight into the investigation, from which he recused himself from last year.
“Benczkowski’s close ties to Attorney General Sessions raise serious questions as to whether he would serve as a backdoor allowing the Attorney General to see into the investigation,” she said in a statement.
according to The New York Times, Benczkowski used to represent Alfa Bank, one of Russia’s largest financial institutions. When confronted about his ties to the Russian institution, Benczkowski released a statement saying that he was initially unable to reveal his former work because of a confidentiality agreement.
The FBI investigated Alfa Bank after it found that one of the servers linked to the bank was communicating with a server tied to the Trump Organization. The FBI later found that the communications were not between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to the Times.
Because nominations only need a majority support, Trump’s picks can clear the Senate without any help from Democrats.