Comments by Trump & Rosenstein Further Confuse Decision to Fire Comey
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said Rosenstein “did acknowledge that he learned Comey would be removed prior to him writing his memo”.
Rosenstein, the No. 2 Justice Department official, named Mueller amid mounting pressure in Congress for an independent investigation beyond existing FBI and congressional probes into the Russian Federation issue.
U.S. President Donald Trump waits to greet Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos in the White House in Washington, DC, U.S., May 18, 2017.
Congressional panels are seeking recordings, transcripts and memos, including the memo Comey is said to have written stating that Trump asked him in February to stop the investigation into the president’s fired national security adviser, Mike Flynn.
Rosenstein fielded questions in the closed session for more than an hour, but many senators left the briefing unsatisfied.
President Trump expressed displeasure at the naming of a special counsel during a news conference at the White House, saying he believes “it divides the country”.
“The entire thing has been a witch hunt”, he declared, echoing one of the tweets he’d sent out just after dawn: “This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!”
A defiant President Donald Trump flatly denied Thursday that he had pressured the FBI to close its investigation of a former close aide, and he questioned the need for a special counsel to probe possible collusion between his 2016 campaign and Russians trying to influence the presidential election.
“Based upon the unique circumstances, the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command”, Mr Rosenstein said in a statement. Then it took more than a month for the panel to announce its first public hearing after Conaway took over the investigation: an open hearing with former Central Intelligence Agency director John Brennan on May 23 to discuss matters “related to Russian active measures during the 2016 election campaign”. Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, said of Rosenstein after the hearing.
“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.
When news broke this week of the Comey memo on Trump’s alleged interference in the Flynn investigation, Fox News commentator Charles Krauthammer said he found it “really stunning that nobody, not even from the White House, has come out under their own name in defense of the president here”.
Justice Department officials said Mueller would likely conduct his investigation nearly entirely independent of Congress.
Around the same time that Trump was preparing for his press conference, Rosenstein reportedly told the full Senate that Trump had already made a decision to fire Comey before Trump asked him to submit a memo that would amount to reasoning. It cited two people briefed on the call. Then Trump admitted he had been considering firing Comey for months.
This has added potency to allegations that Mr Trump, who has struggled to shake off suspicions that Russian Federation helped put him in the White House, was seeking to block the investigation by sacking FBI chief James Comey. Republicans on Capitol Hill hoped the same, reasoning that the appointment of a special counsel could free them to work on a major tax overhaul and other matters without constant distractions.