Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said Tuesday he’s seen no basis for firing Robert Mueller, the former FBI director he appointed as special counsel to oversee an investigation into potential coordination between the Trump presidential campaign and Russia.
Rosenstein repeatedly conveyed his support for Mueller’s role at a Senate hearing, held the morning after a close friend of President Donald Trump was quoted in an interview as saying he was considering dismissing Mueller.
Rosenstein testified that he is the only one who has the authority to fire Mueller, who was appointed following the May 9 ousting of James Comey as FBI director, and that he had seen no good cause to do so. He said he would agree to dismiss Mueller only if there were a legitimate basis to do so. An order from the president would not necessarily qualify, he said.
“I’m not going to follow any orders unless I believe those are proper and appropriate orders,” he said.
Rosenstein was testifying hours ahead of a separate Senate appearance by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was expected to face sharp questions from his former colleagues about his role in Comey’s firing, his Russian contacts during the campaign and his decision to step aside from the investigation involving Moscow and the Trump campaign.
The public testimony Tuesday before the Senate Intelligence committee should yield Sessions’ most extensive comments to date on questions that have dogged his tenure as attorney general and that led him three months ago to recuse himself from the Russia probe.
Democratic senators repeatedly criticized Sessions for dispatching Rosenstein to testify Tuesday in his place about the Justice Department’s budget to an Appropriations subcommittee. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland called it the “height of arrogance” for Sessions not to be present.