WASHINGTON, D.C. (CNN Newsource) — The Russia probe is building tension among top Justice Department officials.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein could end up stepping down from the Russia investigation just two months after taking over the role from Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
This may have something to do with Rosenstein’s role in the firing of FBI Director James Comey, according to CNN.
The deputy attorney general could be the next Department of Justice official to recuse himself from overseeing the special counsel’s Russia investigation, which Rosenstein himself set the possible move in motion by hiring Robert Mueller to lead the probe.
“Director Mueller is going to have the full degree of independence that he needs to conduct that investigation appropriately,” Rosenstein said.
Rosenstein’s role is under scrutiny now that it appears Mueller’s probe could be broadened to investigate obstruction of justice, which could include the president’s firing of Comey.
Rosenstein played a role in that decision, his memo critical of Comey, was initially used by the White House to justify the termination.
“President Trump made the right decision at the right time to accept the recommendation of the deputy attorney general and the attorney general,” Vice President Mike Pence said.
The president later admitted he was going to fire him anyway,
“Oh, I was gonna fire regardless of recommendation,” President Donald Trump said.
On Saturday, a Justice Department spokesman told CNN this about Rosenstein’s future: “If there comes a point where he needs to recuse, he will….However, nothing has changed.”
Questions about his recusal come after this strange statement late Thursday, in which Rosenstein himself referred to recent media reports about whether Trump was being investigated, saying, “Americans should be skeptical about anonymous allegations.”
That drew concern from Democrats like Diane Feinstein, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, that Trump was not only considering firing Mueller but Rosenstein as well.
In a statement calling such a move a “blatant violation” of the president’s oath of office, Feinstein warned, “If the president thinks he can fire Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and replace him with someone who will shut down the investigation, he’s in for a rude awakening.”
If Trump does fire Rosenstein, or he recuses himself, Mueller’s investigation would be overseen by Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand who the Senate confirmed in May to be the third-highest ranking official at the Justice Department.
Brand previously served at the DOJ under President George Bush.
Rachel brand/nominee for associate attorney general:
“If confirmed, I will strive to undertake my role with integrity, independence, and fidelity to constitutional principles and the rule of law,” Brand said.
As the investigation moves forward, Mueller is now looking at Jared Kushner’s meetings, specifically whether he was acting as a member of the Trump campaign and transition or as a real estate businessman when he met with the head of a Russian bank.
And other members of the Trump transition are being directed to preserve records pertinent to the Russia probe, including foreign travel and records related to former Trump campaign associates, specifically National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Foreign Policy Adviser Carter Page, Former Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, and his deputy, Rick Gates.
And also on the list is longtime Trump adviser, Roger Stone.
As for Rosenstein’s role in the Russia probe, Justice Department officials said he’s been feeling the heat of the investigation, joking last month about criticism hurled his way since taking office.
Multiple people have said the president has grown agitated with Rosenstein over the past week, increasing speculation that he may want to fire the deputy attorney general.
Trump said Friday in a Tweet apparently aimed at Rosenstein:
I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 16, 2017
White House officials declined to comment on the Tweet.
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