Shaheen questions deputy AG about integrity of Russia probe

  • Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, center, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 13, 2017, before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the Justice Department's fiscal 2018 budget. Rosenstein said he has seen no evidence of good cause to fire the special prosecutor overseeing the Russia investigation. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) Alex Brandon

  • Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 13, 2017, before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the Justice Department's fiscal 2018 budget. Rosenstein said he has seen no evidence of good cause to fire the special prosecutor overseeing the Russia investigation. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) Alex Brandon

Associated Press
Published: 6/13/2017 1:36:03 PM

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told U.S. senators he wouldn’t follow orders from President Donald Trump or anyone else to fire special counsel Robert Mueller unless they were “lawful and appropriate.”

And so far, Rosenstein said Tuesday, he has seen no reason to fire the special prosecutor overseeing the Russia investigation.

The comment came in response to questions from New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who asked about news reports suggesting that Trump was already thinking about “terminating” Mueller from his position as special counsel. She asked whether he has seen “any evidence of good cause” to fire Mueller. Rosenstein responded: “No, I have not.”

Rosenstein said the attorney general would be the only one who could fire Mueller and since Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from the investigation, Rosenstein is acting in that capacity. He said he is confident that Mueller will have “the full independence he needs” to investigate thoroughly.

Rosenstein appeared before a Senate budget committee Tuesday instead of Sessions to the disappointment of Shaheen and Sen. Patrick Leahy, who said the attorney general himself should be responsible for answering questions in a public hearing about his policies.

Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, told Rosenstein, “You are not the witness who should be behind this table.”

Shaheen said she has many questions about the federal investigation into Trump campaign ties to Russia, including about Sessions’s contacts with the Russian ambassador.

Leahy said he wants to know why Sessions “has provided false testimony” about those contacts.

Lawmakers for weeks have demanded answers from Sessions, particularly about meetings he had last summer and fall with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, asked Rosenstein what he would do if Trump ordered him to fire Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the U.S. elections and possible Russian ties to Trump’s campaign.

Rosenstein said that if he fired Mueller, he would be required to explain it in writing. He added that “if there were good cause, I would consider it. If there were not good cause, it wouldn’t matter what anyone said.”

Rosenstein said Trump has not discussed the special counsel with him.

Sessions was expected to face questions about his role in the firing of James Comey and his Russian contacts during the campaign. Senators also planned to ask Sessions about his decision to recuse himself from an investigation into possible ties between Moscow and associates of Trump.

Under questioning from Sen. Brian Schatz about the scope of Sessions’s recusal, Rosenstein said Sessions “actually does not know what we’re investigating, and I’m not going to be talking about it publicly.”

If questions arise about what matters Sessions should stay away from, he said, a career official in Rosenstein’s office is consulted.

Rosenstein said it would be inappropriate for him to discuss Sessions’s recusal and added, “we don’t talk about the subject matter of investigations while they are ongoing.”




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