Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein also gave a stirring defense of the special counsel’s credibility and confirmed that the scope of Mueller’s investigation includes Trump himself.
Rod Rosenstein stood his ground while being grilled by Republicans during testimony before the House Judiciary Committee today.
As the Los Angeles Times reported:
As the deputy attorney general, the No. 2 position at Justice, Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III as special counsel to lead the Russia probe, and he has the sole authority to fire him.
The role has placed Rosenstein under immense political pressure, and he faced bipartisan heat Wednesday in the House Judiciary Committee as Republicans questioned whether the Russia probe was partisan in nature, and Democrats urged him to push back.
Rosenstein said he’s seen no good reason to remove Mueller from his post, a step that Democrats fear President Trump may pursue.
USA Today elaborated on Rosenstein’s testimony, reporting that in addition to stating that there was no reason to fire Mueller, Rosenstein also stated that Mueller “took the appropriate action to remove a senior FBI agent from his team last summer after exchanging overtly political text messages with a colleague.”
Continuing, USA Today reported that “Rosenstein further defended Mueller by saying that he was exercising appropriate oversight over his probe.”
“I know what he is doing,” Rosenstein said of Mueller, adding: “I am not aware of any impropriety.”
Responding to questions by Republicans regarding political bias within Mueller’s investigative team, Rosenstein responded: “If I thought he (Mueller) was doing something inappropriate, I would take action.”
Rosenstein also offered “a stirring defense” of Mueller’s “credibility.”
“Nobody has communicated to me the desire to remove Robert Mueller,” Rosenstein said. “I think it would be very difficult to find anybody better qualified for this job…I believe that, based upon his reputation, his service, his patriotism, his experience with the department and the FBI, he was an ideal choice for this task.”
Asked about possible expansion of the probe, Rosenstein confirmed that Mueller had the authority to broaden the scope of his investigation to include any member of the Trump administration – to include Trump himself.
USA Today reported that:
Rosenstein, who oversees special counsel operations, was also asked about whether Mueller had requested permission to expand the scope of the investigation. The deputy attorney general said he had helped “clarify” the outline of the inquiry, but he declined to immediately characterize it as an expansion.
Rosenstein did, however, indicate that Mueller’s team had authority to review possible obstruction of justice involving any administration official – including the president.
As CNN reported: “GOP Rep. Lamar Smith asked Rosenstein about Mueller asking for clarification about the scope of his investigation, whether Mueller may be ‘casing too wide of a net’ in what he’s looking into.”
“There are a lot of media stories speculating about what the special counsel may or may not be doing,” Rosenstein responded, adding that: “I know what [Mueller is] doing. I’m appropriately exercising my oversight responsibilities. So I can assure you that the special counsel is conducting himself consistently with our understanding about the scope of his investigation.”
New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the panel’s acting ranking Democrat, expressed concerns regarding the rash of Republican attacks on the FBI, Mueller, and his investigation.
“I predict that these attacks on the FBI will grow louder and more brazen as the special counsel does his work, and the walls close in around the president, and evidence of his obstruction and other misdeeds becomes more apparent,” Nadler said in a recent statement.
As USA Today reported:
Just last week, Rosenstein offered a full-throated defense of the Justice Department just days after Trump openly questioned the agency’s credibility for pursuing Flynn’s prosecution while recommending last year not to bring charges against Clinton.
“In this department, Justice is our name. And justice is our mission,” Rosenstein said in prepared remarks at an awards ceremony for the department’s Criminal Division. “Justice is not just about winning a particular case, or sending a particular person to prison. It is about a fair and impartial process.”
The remarks were a clear counterweight to a flurry of Trump’s tweets days before in which the president raised the prospect that the criminal justice system was “rigged” and described the FBI’s reputation as “in Tatters – worst in History!”
After years of Comey, with the phony and dishonest Clinton investigation (and more), running the FBI, its reputation is in Tatters – worst in History! But fear not, we will bring it back to greatness.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 3, 2017