Fired U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has issued an impassioned plea to his former colleague, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, to do the right thing, stand up to Donald Trump and demand a special prosecutor in the Russian investigation.
In the wake of Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey last week, Bharara argued in an opinion piece in The Washington Post Sunday that the only "common-sense" solution is the appointment of an "independent and uncompromised special counsel to oversee the Russia investigation."
"Given the manner of Comey's firing and the pretextual reasons proffered for it, there is no other way," he added.
To take an ethical stand now could redeem Rosenstein's reputation, Bharara indicated. Though Rosenstein is a "respected career prosecutor," he has "mostly deserved the doubts he generated with his peculiar press-release-style memo purporting to explain Comey's sudden sacking," Bharara wrote.
"He can still fix it. The move would not only ensure the independence of the investigation, but also provide evidence of Rosenstein's own independence."
Bharara concluded: "History will judge this moment. It's not too late to get it right, and justice demands it."
Bharara's pleas however, come amid continued concerns about the independence of the Justice Department and Rosenstein after Comey's firing.
Rosenstein, who has the power to appoint a special prosecutor, has so far seen no need to do so despite increasing demands for an independent investigator.
Trump finally conceded to Lester Holt in an interview on NBC News last week that his decision to fire Comey was a unilateral one that he had made even before an expression of concern about Comey in a three-page memo from Rosenstein.
Trump also admitted that the FBI's investigation concerning Russian interference in the presidential election and possible collusion by Trump's campaign team was part of his decision to remove Comey. "This Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story," Trump told Holt.
The fact that Trump fired the leader of a probe that could include the president himself triggered critics' accusations of obstruction of justice by Trump, a concern that could be grounds for impeachment, some experts have argued.
But Rosenstein — and press secretary Sean Spicer and aide Sarah Huckabee Sanders — provided shifting "cover stories" for Trump's firing that in no way included the president's worries about the Russian probe. Trump asked Rosenstein to write a memo on concerns about Comey which made it appear that the president was following Rosenstein's recommendation (though the letter did not in fact recommend getting rid of the FBI director).
Rosenstein isn't the only official Bharara has demanded should do the right thing.
He also asked for a full bipartisan investigation in Congress with "no partisan nonsense — just a commitment to finding the facts, whatever they may be, proving (or disproving) Russian interference in our election and anything related."
In addition, he noted, the new FBI director "must be apolitical and sensitive to the law-enforcement mission."
In the "tumult of this time," Bharara asked: "Are there still public servants who are prepared to say no to the president?"