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Rod Rosenstein: No good cause to fire Mueller

The second-highest ranking official at the Justice Department stepped back into the national spotlight Wednesday to s...

Posted: Dec 13, 2017 4:06 PM
Updated: Dec 13, 2017 4:06 PM

The second-highest ranking official at the Justice Department stepped back into the national spotlight Wednesday to say he believes there's no good cause for firing special prosecutor Robert Mueller and that to date no one has asked him to remove the special counsel.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday he has seen no reason to fire Mueller thus far.

He retains oversight of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation

"If there were good cause, I would act. If there were no good cause, I would not," Rosenstein said about firing Mueller

"If there were good cause, I would act. If there were no good cause, I would not," Rosenstein told the committee.

When asked by the committee's top Democrat, Rep. Jerry Nadler, if he's seen a cause to fire Mueller, Rosenstein responded: "No."

And later when asked by another member of the committee if President Donald Trump has asked him to remove Mueller from the investigation, he said no one has asked him to do that.

"I am not going to be discussing my communications with the President but I can tell you that nobody has communicated to me the desire to remove Robert Mueller," he said.

He also said he's not afraid of Trump firing him when asked.

"No I'm not," he said.

Wednesday's hearing gave lawmakers the opportunity to grill Rosenstein publicly on his views of everything from Trump's cable news-fueled rages about the Justice Department's handling of various investigations to Mueller's investigation.

Rosenstein -- who retains oversight of Mueller's investigation since Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from all 2016 campaign-related probes -- has managed to keep a low profile since his front and center role in the firing of FBI Director James Comey back in May.

During the hearing, Rosensetin praised Mueller for his work in the special counsel, saying there was no one better qualified for the job.

"I believe based on his reputation, his service, his patriotism, and his experience with the department and with the FBI, I believe he was an ideal choice for this task," he told the committee.

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. "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."

And on whether the committee could investigate Trump for obstruction of justice with regards to the Russia investigation, Rosenstein said Mueller's team can investigate "anybody."

"It authorizes him to investigate anybody who there is predication to believe obstructed justice," he said, later adding when asked to clarify on the President, "It would include anybody who was suspected of obstructing justice."

Bias versus politics

What might normally have been a routine oversight hearing before the House Judiciary Committee for Rosenstein is now taking on a new focus in light of a report late Tuesday evening of roughly 375 politically-charged text messages exchanged between two top FBI employees that were turned over to congressional investigators.

In his opening statement, Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte previewed he would be asking Rosenstein about about Peter Strzok, one of the FBI's top counterintelligence experts, and FBI lawyer Lisa Page exchanged a running commentary of criticism of then-presidential candidate Trump via text message for months.

Stzrok was immediately removed from special counsel Robert Mueller's team this past summer after the text messages were uncovered through an internal investigation at the Justice Department.

"Reports on the political predisposition, and potential bias, of certain career agents and department lawyers on Special Counsel Mueller's team are deeply troubling to all citizens who expect a system of blind and equal justice," Goodlatte said in his opening statement. "We are now beginning to better understand the magnitude of this insider bias on Mr. Mueller's team."

Later in the hearing, GOP Rep. Steve Chabot asked Rosenstein whether the political opinions of the members of the FBI investigation would influence the outcome.

"I think it's important to recognize that when we talk about political affiliation -- that all demonstrates political affiliation -- the issue of bias is something different," Rosenstein responded. "I have discussed this with Director Mueller ... We recognize we have employees with political opinions. And it's our responsibility to make sure those opinions do not influence their actions.

He continued: "And so I believe that Director Mueller understands that and he is running that office appropriately, recognizing that people have political views, but ensuring that those views are not in any way a factor in how they conduct themselves in office."

Clinton email probe

During his opening statement, Goodlatte also hinted he would press Rosenstein on appointing a second special counsel "to investigate the improprieties" related to the handling of the investigation into then-Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton's email probe under then-FBI Director James Comey.

He later asked Rosenstein about the inspector general's investigation into the handling of the email probe.

"Last week, (FBI) Director (Christopher) Wray acknowledged that the normal procedures were not followed with respect to Secretary Clinton's email server," Goodlatte told Rosenstein after his opening statement. "If the inspector general discovers that normal protocol was not followed or that the investigation was closed or otherwise tainted for political purposes, would that be a justification in your mind to reopen the investigation?"

Rosenstein responded he wanted to wait until results from the inspector general's investigation before making a decision on Clinton's emails.

"That's the inspector general's job," Rosenstein responded. "He'll reach his own independent determination. But as you pointed out, my views about it are already known."

Later in the hearing, GOP Rep. Jim Jordan pressed Rosenstein to set up a second special counsel.

"This is unbelievable," he said. "And I'm here to tell you Mr. Rosenstein I think the pubic trust in this whole thing is gone. ... You're the guy in charge. You can disband the Mueller prosecutor and you can do what we've all called for. Appoint a special counsel to look into this."

Rosenstein responded: "I think it's important to understand, congressman, that we have an inspector general who has 500 employees and a $100 million budget, and this is what he does."

This story has been updated and will continue to be updated with developments from Wednesday's hearings.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 512632

Reported Deaths: 10262
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34853555
DeSoto33162432
Hinds32556641
Jackson24830389
Rankin22442402
Lee16238242
Madison14874283
Jones14086247
Forrest13741259
Lauderdale12249324
Lowndes11286193
Lamar10644140
Pearl River9707244
Lafayette8827143
Hancock7835132
Washington7550169
Oktibbeha7204138
Monroe6989179
Pontotoc6970109
Warren6849178
Panola6746134
Neshoba6726210
Marshall6653141
Bolivar6440151
Union633897
Pike5924156
Alcorn5862107
Lincoln5525136
George510180
Prentiss500884
Tippah490282
Itawamba4829107
Scott477499
Adams4766125
Tate4748116
Leflore4723144
Copiah455895
Yazoo455591
Simpson4543117
Wayne442772
Covington432895
Sunflower4299106
Marion4265112
Coahoma4227109
Leake413790
Newton395581
Tishomingo381793
Grenada3775109
Stone365666
Jasper340166
Attala337790
Winston317792
Chickasaw313367
Clay311878
Clarke301195
Calhoun284449
Holmes271289
Smith268952
Yalobusha243747
Tallahatchie231453
Greene224749
Walthall221366
Lawrence217840
Perry213356
Amite209557
Webster205148
Noxubee188642
Montgomery181557
Carroll174441
Jefferson Davis173643
Tunica163239
Benton152639
Kemper144941
Choctaw136527
Claiborne134238
Humphreys131139
Franklin124929
Quitman107528
Wilkinson105939
Jefferson96834
Sharkey65121
Issaquena1957
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 845108

Reported Deaths: 16115
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1161242006
Mobile741961379
Madison53291732
Shelby38328368
Baldwin38074589
Tuscaloosa36017641
Montgomery34483781
Lee25557263
Calhoun22585518
Morgan22454406
Etowah20016517
Marshall18781316
Houston17729425
St. Clair16880358
Limestone16138218
Cullman16050303
Elmore15904294
Lauderdale14984306
Talladega14191299
DeKalb12971269
Walker12029380
Blount10715192
Autauga10517157
Jackson10161194
Coffee9415192
Colbert9341208
Dale9018191
Tallapoosa7255201
Russell707865
Chilton7018170
Escambia6955143
Covington6933195
Franklin6342108
Chambers5784142
Marion5403130
Dallas5285209
Pike5118109
Clarke484986
Lawrence4826129
Winston4780110
Geneva4642136
Bibb434094
Barbour369480
Butler3434100
Marengo342393
Monroe337066
Randolph334367
Pickens333188
Fayette330085
Henry320666
Hale318389
Cherokee317763
Crenshaw260477
Washington257052
Cleburne254460
Lamar251453
Clay250869
Macon244764
Conecuh192862
Coosa185047
Lowndes178168
Wilcox177438
Bullock152645
Perry141840
Sumter139241
Greene130245
Choctaw93228
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