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

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 766351

Reported Deaths: 13965
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1052671804
Lake568691028
Allen42858698
St. Joseph37286568
Hamilton37260426
Elkhart29729470
Tippecanoe23441230
Vanderburgh23153404
Porter19568327
Johnson18807391
Hendricks18059321
Madison13518345
Clark13502198
Vigo12817255
LaPorte12558224
Monroe12529178
Delaware11124198
Howard10654237
Kosciusko9751123
Hancock8734149
Bartholomew8256157
Warrick8053157
Floyd8005181
Grant7349181
Wayne7234201
Boone7173105
Morgan6904142
Marshall6329116
Dubois6270118
Cass6085111
Dearborn600078
Noble597890
Henry5944111
Jackson515677
Shelby509897
Lawrence4914127
Gibson461596
Montgomery457592
Clinton454555
DeKalb453685
Harrison452476
Whitley415345
Huntington414081
Steuben410260
Miami405073
Jasper400455
Knox388091
Putnam384662
Wabash368783
Adams352256
Ripley351071
Jefferson341586
White339354
Daviess3089100
Wells302781
Greene292985
Decatur291693
Fayette285864
Posey280935
Scott278758
LaGrange277172
Clay273148
Washington253537
Randolph247583
Jennings238649
Spencer237931
Fountain234850
Starke229959
Owen222259
Sullivan219543
Fulton207845
Jay202832
Carroll197122
Orange190956
Perry189739
Vermillion180044
Rush177327
Tipton172347
Franklin171935
Parke154816
Pike141434
Blackford137832
Pulaski123648
Newton123036
Benton109615
Brown105943
Crawford105516
Martin92515
Warren87715
Switzerland8328
Union73510
Ohio58311
Unassigned0428

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1122647

Reported Deaths: 20467
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1302911493
Cuyahoga1171502259
Hamilton823481259
Montgomery534491059
Summit488581014
Lucas43734832
Butler39936614
Stark33800937
Lorain25996509
Warren24896312
Mahoning22685612
Lake21457396
Clermont20368260
Delaware19120138
Licking16842227
Trumbull16786491
Fairfield16762207
Medina15832276
Greene15499254
Clark14339308
Portage13417218
Wood13338201
Allen12043245
Richland11726213
Miami10998228
Wayne9251227
Columbiana9196236
Muskingum9119137
Pickaway8738123
Tuscarawas8714254
Marion8703140
Erie8126166
Ashtabula7272179
Hancock7044134
Ross7012165
Geauga6948153
Scioto6679108
Belmont6210179
Lawrence5917104
Union590449
Jefferson5723162
Huron5630122
Sandusky5482130
Darke5436130
Seneca5376128
Washington5362111
Athens526560
Auglaize507087
Mercer490685
Shelby481297
Knox4609112
Madison447266
Ashland443198
Defiance438499
Fulton435775
Putnam4351104
Crawford4110111
Brown409662
Preble3946107
Logan391679
Clinton389266
Ottawa375581
Highland365068
Williams356478
Champaign348360
Guernsey330254
Jackson321254
Perry298350
Morrow294643
Fayette288250
Hardin279165
Henry276967
Coshocton272561
Holmes2725102
Van Wert251665
Adams249258
Gallia249250
Pike244637
Wyandot235257
Hocking222663
Carroll201249
Paulding179442
Meigs151040
Noble137739
Monroe137545
Harrison115238
Morgan111524
Vinton87217
Unassigned03
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It's a steamy Wednesday with scattered showers and thunderstorms arriving Wednesday night.
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