tv Washington Journal William Banks Discusses Special Counsel Rules and... CSPAN May 13, 2017 3:19am-3:51am EDT
young people. he started the alliance for progress. he engaged in the space race. >> for a complete american schedule, go to c-span.org. >> some democrats have called for a special prosecutor to investigate the trump administration ties to russia. for some background on the history of special prosecutors, we talked to syracuse university law professor william banks. from washington journal, this is happened our -- half an hour. >> joining us from new york, professor william banks syracusk about special counsel rules. democrats calling for a special prosecutor and some saying special counsel. is there a difference? if so, what is the difference? guest: there is not a
difference. it is a matter of labels. we have had special counsels in the wake of the watergate crisis .nd scandal in 1972 when the councils were dismissed by president nexen, they -- , they wereixon replaced by someone who was able to bring president nixon to the end of his presidency. created anent act independent counsel. it was a new label for the same thing done on an informal basis through nixon's presidency. the council had a mechanism that was created by statute, but which involve the executive branch and a special court. the process was anyone could seek the appointment of an independent counsel, but it was up to the attorney general to decide whether credible evidence reasonmitted that gave
to believe a high ranking may have violated the law. thatttorney general agreed threshold was met, he or she went to a special court of federal judges to select an independent counsel. that mechanism worked effectively for years, but during the 1990's and in the wake of the whitewater investigation an independent counsel tennis star, members of congress grew tired of the investigations and the inconclusive outcomes. the law was allowed to lapse. the only way an independent prosecutor,pecial the only way that could happen is through the justice department. there has been discussion about that in recent days. jeff sessions has recused himself from the russian matter.
it would be up to the deputy to determine whether a special prosecutor is appropriate. congress could go back and try to create the mechanism again, the one they had before, or something like that. in light of the political situation, the partisan divide in congress and having -- veto mechanism, that is highly unlikely. the other option is a special congressional committee. explain the difference between a special congressional committee and a special counsel. what could the special counsel do and this special congressional committee not do? congress has the constitutional authority to investigate, but they do not have the authority to prosecute. that is an executive branch function.
congress can create a special committee, call for an independent commission, right the 9/11 commission, but they cannot prosecute short of passing a new law that the president signs, that would create a mechanism such as existed before. pursuingt about criminal indictment? congress can't subpoena witnesses, deliver evidence to the justice department -- subpoena witnesses, deliver evidence to the justice department. an independent commission, they could be granted power to andoena witnesses documents. what is the difference between and a special congressional committee and special counsel. when you look at these options, which do you think is most
fitting for the situation? matter.t is a complex the housee senate and launched investigations in january. the house investigation got off to a rocky start and was derailed. it appears to be getting on track now. investigation has moved effectively because of cooperation between the parties and leadership positions. a special congressional committee could be created, a committee of members of congress who investigate this matter. that.is precedent for presumably, members would be appointed to such a committee who have expertise or intelligence. i daresay the investigations going on now are made up of capable members who are working
forward. those investigations will eventually do an effective job. the idea of an independent commission is to take it outside congress. congress would establish the commission, but remove real influence from partisan leanings. you would appoint distinguished members of society to such a commission. it might be a mechanism where republicans and democrats would appoint an equal number, people above partisan influence, not thought to have been involved in any way.politics in those distinguished members would be given a budget, a staff, subpoena power, and they can conduct an investigation. that kind of commission. there is a precedent for it. not there is
involvement of the trump campaign or the trump administration, the russians did influence the selection. they did it in ways that are unprecedented. because of the electronic means available to them now, the sophistication of their methods, we saw threats to our electoral system, particularly the presidential election, that we will have to understand and take steps to counter. the justice department is inclined to go forward, in light of the events with mr. comey. the deputy attorney general will to seek aced prosecutor to take it outside of the hands of the everyday business of the justice department. onse things could go simultaneously. the continuing investigation and the senate and the house, and an independent commission. viewerst's see what our
have to say. do you agree there should be a ancial counsel or independent commission that looks into this russian interference. ie.'s go to hatt caller: thank you for taking my call. i think there should be a special counsel. not, there does need to be a special counsel with that. something is going on with this. this is the first time in a president, every time somebody doesn't agree with him, he fires them.
it needs to be somebody that is constitutions our correct. host: let's let the professor take the first part of your comments. this needs to be independent because people can fire people. guest: she makes an important point. the justice department would be viewed above the political fray. the caller referenced this is
the first time in history something like this has happened. is president next and, who did appoint special counsel when the watergate burglary was revealed and he attempted to fire the prosecutors because he did not like the investigation. they were protected by mechanisms inside the justice department or the law passed by congress. he was able to fire archibald cox and after negotiations, they settled on the appointment of a new prosecutor. host: the deputy attorney general, because he has recused himself from the investigation, has to make the decision.
have finalein will say. the attorney general is they are trying to pin comey's firing on him. guest: he was chagrined trump attempted to use his memo as the basis for firing director comey in the. trump admitted interview yesterday he had already made up his mind to fire comey and he was looking for paper justification. trump does not need justification to fire comey. -- fire himfor hit for any reason or no reason at all. he made a justification of on
the back of a career department justice official. he will do everything to make sure his reputation is not tainted by misuse of presidential authority. about the interview with lester holt, where he says he was going to fire mr. comey, that he wanted to do so with or without the recommendation from the justice department and he also makes the connection between that decision and the russia inquiry. says one analysts noted the implication is severe, that comey may have offered the insurance to ingratiate himself with the president. i have a hard time imagining that. trumpo did not think asking that question came close to a criminal act of trying to obstruct the investigation.
asked thehat he question, is that obstructing justice? is an argument he is. there is an ongoing investigation going on by the f ei and counterintelligence implication the director, by being asked that question could influence the direction of the investigation or it's a very continuance is a serious threat to the independence of the investigation itself. particularly when the person asking the question is the boss. we have not heard from mr. comey yet about those conversations mr.e trump said he asked comey about his potential involvement in his investigation. i am sure comey will cooperate
-- will corroborate everything mr. trump said. line ofry close to the obstructing an ongoing investigation. host: is it because he said i fired him and he makes a connection to the russia inquiry? important partan of it. if the bases of the firing is going to be mr. comey's performance, his suppose and misdirection in dealing with the clinton emails and the like, he would not have made reference to these other points in his letter or admitted he had other things in mind when he fired mr. comey. caller: why do we need a special for collusion with the russians when there is no
proof. you have to have proof before you can prosecute. -- why isn'troof there a special prosecution on that? of the reason we don't have the evidence yet is because the investigation is ongoing. the evidence of russian influence in the investigation remains classified. our intelligence agencies nearly half a year to come to a conclusive decision that it was russian state involvement in that effort to influence the election. is possible for any number of hackers to enter into systems like the dnc or rnc, or
something else, to spread false misdirectn or resources and staff, spread lies or misinformation about candidates. investigation, the direction of these campaigns was from the highest levels of the russian government. that is the investigation that is ongoing now. how much involvement, where did it come from, what impact did it have and was there any connection with persons in the malwaretates in that and other efforts to derail the election as we would have it. host: norman, massachusetts, independent. caller: thank you for taking my call.
why wouldn't an investigation by an investigative journalist or mass media organization be just as good or better than some government efforts at investigating this? the government would inoretically have some pull retrieving classified never know, but you these days with our government. our on government spreads misinformation better than any hacker could. this should be music to c-span's ears. that is a strong point. we think of press, journalism, ,he media as the fourth estate the fourth branch of government, if you will.
at times of stress in our public life, when government is being called into question, one part of the government or more than one part, it is incumbent on free press to bring the story to the people in multiple ways. we have heard various points of view this morning. there is so much media attention administrationmp has been so dramatically different in style and tone, not to mention substance, from what we are used to in the united states. the press has an important role. the government has to check itself. checks is that it the constitution was created so no one part of the government would have too much authority.
the courts are there if they need to umpire a dispute. theave not talked about courts directly, but they could become involved in this matter. kathy, orange, virginia, democrat. caller: i believe there should be a special counsel with the fbi and put. it seems the i.t. specialists need to get involved because of the propaganda that happened tv, the special media, print, radio, everything they could get out there to say here is the guy to vote for and here is the woman who have the emails. the emails are a really small part of this. contact and collusion with is a puzzle piece you have to remember shallow state voters that just skim information.
they are not looking for the truth. they want to magnify their own beliefs. thank you for taking my call. that is an important point. it magnifies the intrusion in our electoral system is different because of the sophistication of the electronic means that were used. one nation has tried to influence the outcome of another nation for as long as nations have been around. the united states has done that as well. with the availability of technical means and the capability to deceive the viewer calls ar shallow purveyor of information, making it appear as though it is coming from some domestic source, when in fact, it is foreign. that is a different nature of threat.
to learn to understand it and think about how we can make our systems more secure to counter what is coming in. will hear from joe. question or comment? i am a republican, but very independent and liberal in many ways. my 86 years, i have seen more laws invoked on the american public at every level there is an in has not helped anything. has a penaltyn with every law that is created. over penalized. i don't understand where the legal system is going. there has to be an awakening in this country. people support donald trump because he does not put up with the scrap -- put up with this
crap anymore. we need morality. about the truth, you mock it with the media, the legal system, the political system. movementan awakening in america. i hope you people wake up. thank you for your time. guest: you are talking to a law professor, so you are not likely to get me to agree the law has no proper place in providing the rules for our society. you make an important point that trump is trying to govern in a different way. voters selected him and we should give that a fair chance, is based in the rule of law. the president of the united states, congress, and courts have to abide by that.
host: fletcher, north carolina. gary is watching, and independent. snowden is embedded in russia, am i correct? guest: he is in rush. -- in russia. he has been for almost four years. i don't think there is any connection between him and the attempts to influence the 2016 election. i amr: that is not what saying. the fact he knows how we hunt people down or track people through computers and things ise that, i wonder if russia playing with some knowledge they him toave gained through bait us falsely or make an
people.to influence with the fake news and things now, we are proving to be easy to influence. we act on information without giving it a second thought. talking about the population. maybe not government intelligence. that don't have knowledge of how things work, as you said, the information is secretive. we are not privileged to it. professor banks, you seem skeptical. he makes a nice point that whether it is snowden himself or the availability of have learned they
a tremendous amount about our of gatheringns intelligence and disseminating information. capabilities in this area are sophisticated. they are as strong as ours. they have proven to be effective at manipulating public opinion in the united states. a lot of the evidence on main's classified. a good amount of it was summarized in public documents released at the end of the summer by the obama administration. they might have learned something about our methods for intelligence gathering from mr. but whether it was snowden or someone else, we are too thin nail with them, fighting in this new domain. the president tweeted out
moments ago, cnn is calling it a threat to the former fbi director. he said -- james comey better tapes of oure no conversations before he starts leaking to the press. is coming president close to a line of instructing an ongoing investigation into the russian election. he should be very careful in his tweets. they tend to be spontaneous and reckless. mr. comey is no longer a public official. he will confer with his own counsel before he decides how much to say and what form. in today's opinion section of the wall street journal, watergate lessons for mr. trump. with all the calls for an , why notnt prosecutor
move the investigation to the house judiciary committee? it could get down to whether the president has done anything worthy of impeachment. it is the only properly constitutionally correct way to do this. i would like to see him cleared, but if he is going to be getting ahead ofcrimes, the where we are at this time. there are calls for the beginning of an impeachment inquiry. many members will try to move in that direction. he isis no indication being investigated for involvement in the russian influence at all. int investigation is early the justice department and the intelligence community.
and there are dozens more witnesses yet to come. we have subpoenas of former national security adviser michael flynn, which might produce more indication of his involvement and the connection inside the trump administration it is possible people are culpable here. let's not get ahead of ourselves. on the question of obstruction of justice, with that have to go to the house judiciary committee? yes.: i am reminded of the example of president nick's in. it was the nature of that conduct which brought him down, not the underlying involvement in the watergate hotel, the
break-in in 1972. it was the cover-up of that and the ongoing inquiry by firing archibald cox that created the firestorm articles of impeachment in the house. i am a democrat. i except the fact that trump became my president. thisoral compass in country is at an all time low. i have never seen it like this before. i don't have any faith in our political system, be it republican or democrat. i don't think we should have a special counsel. we have people in place to do the job. -- let the point where
trump do what he wants to do. half the country supports him with whatever he says and does. they have a pride in his ability to do the job. let him do what he wants to do and let the chips fall where they may. the spirit of the comment is terrific. our democracy, if it is being compromised in ways we are unfamiliar with, that we before, wecountered have an obligation to get to the bottom of how that might occur and the steps we might could take to prevent it from occurring again. whether there was involvement with the trumpet campaign, i think we need to understand the source of it.
i am looking for mr. rosenstein to decide to a point a special counsel following justice department procedures. i am looking to the next steps in the senate. host: thank you for spending time with us. today, president trump is in lynchburg, virginia to deliver the commencement address at liberty university. live coverage begins at 10 a.m. eastern on c-span. >> sunday on q