The FBI raid of the home, office, and hotel room of President Donald Trump’s personal attorney has prompted speculation that Trump may fire top Justice Department officials in an attempt to gain control over the special counsel investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. One official who could end up with significant power over the investigation is Trump’s nominee to lead the department’s criminal division—a man with no prosecutorial experience who has worked on behalf of a Russian bank with ties to Vladimir Putin.
The Senate is currently considering the nomination of Brian Benczkowski to run the criminal division, which has jurisdiction over criminal laws like those explored in the special counsel probe and a say in US attorney actions like the search warrant for Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen. Benczkowski, a former congressional aide to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, would come to the job with an unusual résumé. Unlike all his recent predecessors, he has never been a prosecutor and has virtually no experience in criminal law. Moreover, he was recently a lawyer for Alfa Bank, run by oligarchs with connections to Putin. This background, along with his close ties to Sessions and the Trump team, has Democrats worried that Benczkowski’s appointment could interfere with special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.