John Ashcroft, Attorney General at the time, was ill, and the White House tried to pull an end run around Mueller and James Comey, acting Attorney General at the time, sending Bush’s counsel Alberto R. Gonzales and chief of staff Andrew Card to his bed to reauthorize the program. He emphasizes that several career attorneys in the Department of Justice reviewed the memo before it was sent to Sessions.
On Wednesday, Justice Department officials announced that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had tapped former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel, taking over the investigation into Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election.
It also surfaced yesterday that at a previously unknown meeting of GOP leaders a year ago, Republican Majority leader Kevin McCarthy had said he thinks “Putin pays” Trump.
The term is used somewhat interchangeably with “special prosecutor“, but the latter is outdated.
Even as they praised the selection of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel, congressional Democrats argued that he’s not enough. “We have lawmakers from both sides ahead who are players”, Cuomo teased Thursday morning.
“Whatever investigation goes on will have the credibility of Bob Mueller, the former director of the FBI”, he said.
“Obviously that’s a step in the right direction”, said Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich. “This renewed my confidence that we should not have confidence in this administration”.
The Justice Department declined to explain the decision-making involved in the appointment.
Rosenstein fielded questions in the closed session for more than an hour, but many senators left the briefing unsatisfied. The document is, Rosenstein says, “a candid internal memorandum …” “My memorandum is not a statement of reasons to justify a for-cause termination”.
“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”. Rosenstein denounced that as “profoundly wrong and unfair”.
Despite initially opposing appointment of an independent counsel, House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday that the development “helps assure people and the Justice Department that they’re going to go do their jobs independently and thoroughly, which is what we’ve called for all along”. Before taking “significant” actions, however, the special counsel must notify the attorney general.
“I determined that it is in the public interest for me to exercise my authority and appoint a special counsel to assume responsibility for this matter, ” Rosenstein said. Comey gave Fitzgerald complete discretion to conduct the investigation, bolstering the special counsel’s independence.
“He learned the president’s decision to fire him and then he wrote his memo with his rationale”, Durbin said. Rosenstein did a significant national service both by naming a special counsel in the Russian Federation matter and by naming a particularly appropriate figure-Robert Mueller-to the post. “It violated deeply engrained rules and traditions, and it guaranteed that some people would accuse the Federal Bureau of Investigation of interfering in the election”. With legislators and lawyers investigating, this ongoing lack of supervision and self-control can be unsafe on many levels.
The same pattern was in evidence when he fired FBI Director James Comey last week then used a television interview to suggest he acted out of frustration with the FBI’s Russian Federation probe – even though his team spent several days saying the ousting of the bureau’s director had nothing to do with that issue.
A number of House members left Friday’s briefing frustrated that they hadn’t learned more.
President Donald Trump is assailing the naming of a special counsel as “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!”