Bay Ridgites assembled in front of Rep. Dan Donovan’s Dyker Heights office on May 11 to demand the lawmaker support a special counsel and the creation of an independent commission of experts to investigate President Trump’s ties to Russia in the wake of the abrupt firing of the Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey, who was leading the inquiry. But the congressman does not support the appointment of special counsel or the creation of any other groups to tag-team the investigation, because he has confidence in the existing probes, and is more interested with who will replace Comey at the bureau, said a rep for the legislator.
“The point of a special prosecutor is to make sure that an independent, unbiased investigation is taking place, and that’s already happening with the FBI investigation,” said Alexia Sikora. “Donovan’s biggest issue is who is running it, and that’s why he’s pushed for someone with a record of independence to replace Comey.”
On May 9, Trump suddenly fired Comey — who was leading an expanding criminal probe into whether Trump’s advisers colluded with the Russian government to undermine the 2016 presidential election — immediately intensifying calls for a special investigator who would be independent of the Trump Justice Department.
But Donovan feels the bureau and the House and Senate Intelligence Committees’ investigations are up to the challenge, and would not join the call for an investigator who would give the president less power over the probe. Critics panned the Ridge-to-Rock rep for defending the status quo.
“I think he’s being a coward,” said Mallory McMahon, a lead organizer with Fight Back Bay Ridge. “Is he going to be remembered as someone who stood up early and said, ‘This is not normal,’ or as someone who got in line with Trump? He’s playing it very safe, and his voters will remember as this scandal potentially becomes something huge. I’m hoping he’ll grow a backbone like he did with health care.”
Donovan (R–Bay Ridge) was one of a handful of Republican House members who bucked their party and opposed the draconian “repeal-and-replace” healthcare bill that passed the House last month.
But the congressman quickly changed his tune late Wednesday after the Justice Department appointed former Federal Bureau of Investigation director Robert Mueller Wednesday evening as a special counsel to oversee the allegations.
“I have complete confidence in the FBI and Justice Department, along with the House and Senate committees, to find out the facts,” said Donovan. “The public has a right to know what, if anything, happened, and if the appointment of a special counsel gets us there, then I support DOJ’s decision.”
The appointment came as a clamor on both sides of the aisle insisting that someone outside Trump’s Justice Department must handle the politically charged investigation. Muller is still ultimately answerable to the deputy attorney general for the Department of Justice, and by extension the president, but he will have greater autonomy than the U.S. attorney and be able to choose what extent to communicate with the agency as his probe moves forward.
Muller is viewed parties as one of the country’s most credible law enforcement officials, and Donovan is pleased that he is filling the role.
“Robert Mueller has an impeccable reputation and has served in administrations of both parties,” he said. “I trust that he will analyze the facts and reach an unbiased and objective conclusion based on the evidence.”