Published: Mon, June 19, 2017
U.S. | By Vera Richards

Trump publicly acknowledges Russia probe includes him


Rosenstein was the Justice Department official who drafted a memo to the President alleging numerous deficiencies in the performance of then-FBI Director James Comey. Mueller is a former Federal Bureau of Investigation director. The White House press office immediately pointed to Rosenstein's detailed memo as the justification for Comey's surprise termination.

Rosenstein has been overseeing the Russian Federation probe since shortly after Sessions recused himself. Comey has said three times I didn't do anything with the Russians. This was the week the investigation of Russia's involvement in the 2016 election reached the Oval Office - and Trump himself.

President Trump can not invoke executive privilege in relation to the Mueller investigation because it is being conducted by the Justice Department, an arm of the executive branch itself.

Thus, the responsibility of supervising the Russian Federation investigation fell to the highly respected Rod Rosenstein, who had been serving as acting attorney general prior to Sessions' Senate confirmation.

President Donald Trump put fresh pressure on the second-highest-ranking official at the Justice Department on Friday, raising concerns among the president's critics that Rod Rosenstein could be in danger of being fired, while others argued that if he stays, he should recuse himself from his role overseeing the special-counsel probe that has engulfed the White House.

"I appointed him. I stand by that decision", Rosenstein said.

Donald Trump is not under investigation for firing FBI Director James Comey, the president's lawyer said, in seeming contradiction to a tweet the United States leader had sent out earlier complaining of a "witch hunt" against him.

Friday's tweets are the latest in a week of angry social media responses by the President over a report by The Washington Post that Mr Mueller was looking into whether Mr Trump obstructed justice. It was not clear whether these records would be sought by Mueller, or the various Senate and House committees investigating alleged Russian interference in the U.S. election, or all of these.

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All of which necessarily brings us back to Rod Rosenstein.

In a series of tweets Friday morning, President Trump confirmed that he is under investigation by the special counsel, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, appointed by his own Department of Justice to look into allegations of collusion between the Trump election campaign and Russian government officials. "Witch Hunt", the president wrote on Twitter.

The President, perhaps unintentionally, has focused attention on a new and serious problem with the Mueller probe.

The Republican National Committee denounced the Washington Post report on Mueller now targeting Trump for a potential obstruction of justice charged, declaring, "This story is nothing more than an example of even more leaks coming out of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and special counsel's office in an effort to undermine the President".

Rosenstein was among those who advised Sessions to recuse himself, according to officials briefed on the matter. He may actually be a witness in the investigation he is supposed to supervise and like Sessions will be compelled by legal ethics to assume a seat on the sidelines. And I said yesterday, you get two more leaks like this, Rosenstein is going to have to appoint a special counsel to investigate the special counsel.

The Washington Post reported earlier this week that Mueller has expanded his probe to include the president's conduct and has arranged interviews with senior administration officials to assess the nature of their own communications with Trump regarding the Russian Federation investigation.

Senior congressional Republicans, alarmed that Trump might touch off a new political firestorm, have warned him against firing Mueller.

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