All over obstruction
As accusations of collusion fade, Democrats trying to build another case against Trump.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Tuesday tamped down rumors that President Trump was considering dismissal of Robert Mueller as the special counsel leading the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Appearing before a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, Mr. Rosenstein said there is “no secret plan” he is aware of to fire Mr. Mueller, and indicated it would only be appropriate to do so if there was good cause to support it.
“As long as I am in this position, he is not going to be fired without good cause,” Mr. Rosenstein said.
The deputy attorney general filled in at the Appropriations Committee hearing to discuss the Justice Department’s budget as Attorney General Jeff Sessions prepared to testify instead before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. But lawmakers focused to a great degree on rumors the president was looking to fire Mr. Mueller, who was appointed by Mr. Rosenstein after Mr. Sessions recused himself from any investigations involving the presidential election.
Because only Mr. Rosenstein has authority to fire Mr. Mueller, senators asked what he would do if ordered by the president to get rid of the special counsel.
“I am not going to follow any orders unless I believe they are lawful and appropriate orders,” Mr. Rosenstein said. “Under the regulation, special counsel Mueller may only be fired for good cause, and I am required to put the cause in writing. … If there were good cause, I would consider that. If there were not good cause, it wouldn’t matter to me what anybody said.”
Speculation swirled Monday night about Mr. Mueller’s possible dismissal after Chris Ruddy, CEO of the pro-Trump outlet Newsmax, told PBS NewsHour that he thought Mr. Trump was considering firing Mr. Mueller. Mr. Ruddy appeared on CNN Tuesday morning to walk back his earlier statements.
“I never said that the president told me, I never said I had a conversation, I never implied — as you know I’ve been on CNN many times, [and] I always speak for myself and not the president,” Mr. Ruddy said. “He has his own spokesman.”
Mr. Rosenstein also faced a series of questions Tuesday about the scope of Mr. Sessions’ recusal from the Russia investigation and whether he may have violated that by recommending that former FBI Director James B. Comey be fired.
While the deputy attorney general declined to discuss the precise matters from which Mr. Sessions is and is not recused, he noted that decisions had already been made “about what matters would be appropriate for the attorney general to handle” by the time he was officially sworn into office.
But he said he was supportive of the special counsel’s team looking into the matter.
“I understand there are serious allegations that have been raised. I believe it is up to Director Mueller to decide whether this is within the scope of his investigation,” Mr. Rosenstein said. “I think Director Mueller should review that and decide whether it should be included.”
Addressing Sen. Brian Schatz, Hawaii Democrat, Mr. Rosenstein said his office controlled the flow of information that Mr. Sessions received about matters from which he is recused.
“I know what we are investigating; he does not,” Mr. Rosenstein said.
Sen. Schatz pressed about whether Mr. Sessions might instead learn details through the Oval Office.
“We are not briefing the Oval Office about our investigations either, so I don’t know how they would get there,” Mr. Rosenstein said. ●
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said he has seen no evidence of good cause to fire Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor overseeing the Russia investigation.