Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein stood in special counsel Robert Mueller’s defense Monday, saying that there was no justification for putting an end to the investigation into Russian election meddling.
“The special counsel is not an unguided missile,” Rosenstein said in an interview with USA Today. “I don’t believe there is any justification at this point for terminating the special counsel.”
Rosenstein is among the first to comment on the special counsel’s status since it was revealed a few weeks ago that President Donald Trump sought to fire Mueller last summer.
The deputy attorney general appointed Mueller to lead the Russia probe after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself because of his prior contacts with Russia Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Rosenstein, who oversees the investigation, said this takes only “a fraction” of his daily work. He further defended the Justice Department which is often criticized by the president.
“I believe much of the criticism will fall by the wayside when people reflect on this era and the Department of Justice,” said Rosenstein, without referring to Trump directly. “I’m very confident that when the history of this era is written, it will reflect that the department was operated with integrity.”
Rosenstein also expressed confidence in his own ability to do his job.
“I feel very confident in my ability to do the job. In any political job, you recognize that your time is going to be limited. My goal is to get as much done for as long as I’m here in the job,” he stated.
Although Trump continues to refer to the inquiry as a “witchhunt” and has directed his criticism toward the leadership of Rosenstein and Sessions at Justice, the deputy attorney general has not wavered from his support of Mueller.
“I can assure you that the special counsel is conducting himself consistently with our understanding of the scope of the investigation,” Rosenstein told a House panel in December, before offering a stirring defense of the special counsel’s credibility.
“I think it would be very difficult to find anybody better qualified for this job…I believe that, based upon his reputation, his service, his patriotism, his experience with the department and the FBI, he was an ideal choice for this task,” the deputy attorney general continued.