The issue:

President Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey renewed recommendations that the ongoing investigation of possible collusion between Trump campaign associates and Russian operatives will require the appointment of an independent special counsel.

The facts:

A special counsel can be appointed via two methods:

1. The Attorney General can appoint a special counsel when the DOJ might face a conflict of interest or if "extraordinary circumstances" occur. However, since Jeff Sessions has recused himself from the Russia investigation, that responsibility would now fall to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

2. Congress could pass a law similar to 1978's Ethics in Government Act — passed in response to Watergate — which mandated that allegations against certain high-level government officials require a special counsel independently selected by a panel of judges from U.S. Circuit courts. (After Bill Clinton's impeachment, the Ethics in Government Act's special counsel provision expired in 1999 and was not reauthorized.) This method would require broad bipartisan support to pass both houses of Congress — enough to override the possibility of a Trump veto when the bill crosses his desk.

Why it matters:

The only realistic option for a special counsel appointment will come via Rosenstein, the man who drafted the memorandum that explained why Comey was being fired. Still, it's worth noting that Rosenstein isn't a Trump surrogate — he's been at the Department of Justice for 27 years under five different presidential administrations.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9:30 p.m. ET: 33,867,247 — Total deaths: 1,012,341 — Total recoveries: 23,537,059Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 8 p.m. ET: 7,229,319 — Total deaths: 206,887 — Total recoveries: 2,840,688 — Total tests: 103,939,667Map.
  3. Education: School-aged children now make up 10% of all U.S COVID-19 cases.
  4. Health: The coronavirus' alarming impact on the body.
  5. Business: Real-time data show economy's rebound slowing but still going.
  6. Sports: Steelers-Titans NFL game delayed after coronavirus outbreak.
Ina Fried, author of Login
2 hours ago - Technology

Facebook removes Trump ads tying refugees to COVID-19

Photo Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Facebook said Wednesday that it was removing a series of ads from President Trump's campaign that linked American acceptance of refugees with increased coronavirus risk, a connection Facebook says is without merit.

Why it matters: The ads were pulled after they received thousands of impressions and are a sign that the Trump campaign continues to test the limits of social media rules on false information.

Over 73 million people watched the first debate on TV

Data: Nielsen; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

More than 73.1 million people watched the first presidential debate on television on Tuesday night, according to Nielsen ratings.

Why it matters: While that's a sizable audience for any American TV program, it's down more than 13% from the record number of TV viewers who tuned in for the first debate of the 2016 election. The chaotic nature of the debate and the overall uncertainty around this year's election may have pushed some viewers away.