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 5:06 PM
Updated: Dec 13, 2017 5:06 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.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 701971

Reported Deaths: 13187
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion958051716
Lake51105939
Allen38867670
Hamilton34212404
St. Joseph33638539
Elkhart27021431
Vanderburgh22016393
Tippecanoe21602212
Johnson17408373
Porter17157297
Hendricks16711310
Clark12640190
Madison12287337
Vigo12139244
Monroe11336166
LaPorte10760204
Delaware10288184
Howard9606211
Kosciusko9051113
Hancock7922139
Bartholomew7839153
Warrick7671155
Floyd7533176
Wayne6871198
Grant6755168
Boone6517100
Morgan6362138
Dubois6068117
Marshall5743108
Dearborn566975
Cass5668102
Henry5558100
Noble536983
Jackson491869
Shelby476895
Lawrence4324118
Gibson426889
Harrison426070
Montgomery416286
Clinton415053
DeKalb405483
Huntington376480
Whitley374939
Miami371365
Knox364889
Steuben361357
Putnam351760
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Ripley333268
Jefferson310779
White307154
Daviess288699
Wells284780
Decatur278592
Fayette276962
Greene269985
Posey268133
Scott259853
Clay252044
LaGrange250970
Randolph234380
Washington230329
Spencer227431
Jennings224447
Fountain207445
Sullivan207342
Starke201152
Owen191456
Fulton190439
Jay185529
Carroll185220
Perry179136
Orange176253
Rush170224
Vermillion165643
Franklin165135
Tipton160843
Parke143716
Blackford132631
Pike130034
Pulaski112945
Newton102834
Brown99340
Crawford96914
Benton95613
Martin82215
Warren78715
Switzerland7698
Union69510
Ohio55511
Unassigned0405

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1045945

Reported Deaths: 18917
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1214131352
Cuyahoga1060882061
Hamilton778281165
Montgomery49815988
Summit45000907
Lucas39675760
Butler37582568
Stark31296894
Lorain24038472
Warren23805291
Mahoning20777583
Lake19885362
Clermont19387228
Delaware17933130
Licking16066206
Fairfield15618196
Trumbull15500459
Medina14787259
Greene14593236
Clark13542288
Wood12664184
Portage12277194
Allen11281229
Richland11001198
Miami10500212
Muskingum8676127
Wayne8523209
Columbiana8515226
Pickaway8414120
Tuscarawas8347239
Marion8342135
Erie7509153
Ross6687145
Hancock6666123
Geauga6520146
Ashtabula6436164
Scioto6271100
Belmont5578158
Union555147
Lawrence5454102
Jefferson5271147
Huron5265113
Darke5256121
Sandusky5158119
Seneca5084118
Washington5056107
Athens497454
Auglaize473984
Mercer470084
Shelby454689
Knox4363108
Madison420458
Putnam419398
Ashland411586
Fulton406266
Defiance399496
Brown384855
Crawford3848100
Logan371976
Preble369298
Clinton359359
Ottawa354278
Highland345759
Williams321674
Champaign317856
Jackson306151
Guernsey305348
Perry289249
Fayette276748
Morrow274139
Henry262866
Hardin262663
Coshocton257857
Holmes252399
Van Wert238562
Gallia232946
Pike232331
Adams227152
Wyandot225553
Hocking208458
Carroll188547
Paulding168238
Meigs141138
Noble132537
Monroe128741
Morgan106423
Harrison104936
Vinton81314
Unassigned02
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