Trump claims 'witch hunt' as special counsel takes lead

Bruno Cirelli
Mag 20, 2017

Mueller takes the reins after FBI Director James Comey was sacked by Trump last week as he investigated potential ties between Trump's campaign and Russian officials.

While Mueller begins his investigation, Congress has its own ongoing probe into Russian Federation.

The developments were a blow to White House efforts to tamp down interest in the Russian Federation investigation as Trump and his staff boarded Air Force One for Saudi Arabia, first stop on his first foreign trip as president.

Comey will certainly be asked about encounters that precipitated his firing, including a January dinner in which, Comey has told associates, Trump asked for his loyalty.

Senate intelligence Chairman Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, noted that Senate investigators were still pursuing former national security adviser Michael Flynn, even though they do not yet know how Flynn will respond to their subpoena for documents.

But Rosenstein did not disclose further details about the memo he wrote, according to House members on Friday.

Comey turned down an invitation to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

His argument: Congressional interviews and hearings could inadvertently harm or complicate the criminal investigation. Trump fired Comey on May 9.

"If I were Mr. Mueller I would jealously guard the witness pool", Graham said. "No politician in history - and I say this with great surety - has been treated worse or more unfairly". Issa said he has faith that Mueller would be able to conduct an independent investigation. "The investigation would have always continued, and obviously the termination of Comey would not have ended it". Rosenstein's "got the power to do it and you have to accept it and it doesn't matter what we think".

The announcement of a special counsel apparently took the White House by surprise, with Trump only being informed of it after Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had signed the order.

Yesterday it was revealed that Robert Mueller had been appointed special counsel by the Justice Department, in order to investigate the Trump administration's ties to Russian Federation and potential inappropriate efforts to cover up those ties.

The White House has struggled since Comey's firing to explain the chain of events that led to it and who exactly made the decision.

Rosenstein told senators that he knew Comey would be fired before he wrote his letter, Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill said.

The Justice Department on Friday released the text of Rosenstein's opening remarks for the briefings on Capitol Hill.

Her media spokesman Joe Jackson told us this, "Director Comey had usurped the power of the Attorney General and lost the ability to run the Federal Bureau of Investigation with credibility and objectivity".

Washington lawmakers from both parties have expressed confidence in Mueller. Let's even accept that the shifting explanations for each new revelation represent genuine confusion in a new administration and not clumsy collusion. "And I think this shows a very divided country". Trump has insisted at times that the decision was his alone, but he also has pointed to the "very strong" recommendation from Rosenstein.

What were the circumstances around Rosenstein's reported threat to resign if the White House continued to push the story that he initiated the move to fire Comey?

"My memorandum is not a statement of reasons to justify a for-cause termination", he said.

"He also told me that Trump was perceptibly uncomfortable with this answer", wrote Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a critic of Trump. "I believe it. I stand by it".

Yet Rosenstein himself in the last week has come under intense criticism as the author of a memo that chastised Comey for his handling of the Hillary Clinton email case, which the White House initially cited as justification for the firing. Rosenstein denounced that as "profoundly wrong and unfair".

The appointment of a special counsel to take over the Russian Federation investigation was widely praised by Democrats and Trump's fellow Republicans.

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