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Polls show that a solid majority of Americans and registered voters support appointing a special prosecutor to investigate the Trump campaign's alleged ties to Russian intelligence — even many Republicans who do not think the Kremlin interfered in the U.S. election to help President Trump, as every U.S. intelligence agency has determined to be a near certainty. Now that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from any investigation involving the Trump campaign and Russia, it would be up to his deputy to appoint a special prosecutor — and Trump's nominee for the position, Rod J. Rosenstein, declined to commit to naming one in his tense Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday.
There's some precedent for the move, should Rosenstein decide to act. In 2003, when Attorney General John Ashcroft had recused himself, his deputy named U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald as a special counsel to investigate the leaking of the identity of a covert CIA agent. That deputy? James Comey, now FBI director. That was the last special prosecutor, and the last independent counsel was Kenneth Starr, who prosecuted the Clintons in the 1990s (before that, there were independent counsels appointed to investigate Attorney General Edwin Meese and President Ronald Reagan's Iran-Contra scandal). Given the interest in special prosecutors, Yahoo has put together a short, helpful primer on what they are, their history, and what they can do. Watch below. Peter Weber