Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has discussed the possibility of recusing himself from the Russia investigation, according to a new report from ABC News.
Rosenstein discussed the issue in a recent meeting with Associate Attorney General Rachel Lee Brand, ABC reports. Brand, a Republican and former George W. Bush administration official, would take over the probe should Rosenstein recuse himself.
Rosenstein, who took office in late April, is discussing recusal because he may potentially be a witness in special counsel Robert Mueller’s broad investigation of all Russia-related matters, including whether Trump obstructed justice by firing James Comey as FBI director last month.
Rosenstein wrote a memo recommending May 9 Comey’s firing. And though Trump has said that he planned to fire Comey regardless of the recommendation, he appeared to take a shot at his appointee on Twitter on Friday.
“I’m being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director!” said Trump, lamenting what he called a “witch hunt.”
Rosenstein’s discussions about recusal appear to be in the preliminary stages, according to ABC News. He has not formally asked the Justice Department’s career attorneys whether recusal is appropriate, and is unlikely to make a decision until doing so.
A former U.S. attorney, Rosenstein is overseeing the Russia investigation because Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the matter in March.
Rosenstein appointed Mueller to serve as special counsel on May 17, a little over a week after Trump fired Comey.
While Mueller is in charge of conducting day-to-day investigative activities, Rosenstein has final authority on personnel and budgetary matters, as well as ultimate control over any prosecutorial decisions. Rosenstein also has the authority to fire Mueller, a point he made in Senate testimony earlier this week.
Rosenstein also noted in his testimony that Trump has the authority to fire him for any reason.
As his tweet Friday suggests, Trump has grown increasingly frustrated over the Russia investigation. And the post is being interpreted by some as an indication that Trump plans to fire Mueller, Rosenstein, or both.
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, said in a statement on Friday that she is “increasingly concerned” that Trump could try to fire both Mueller and Rosenstein.
Canning Rosenstein would thrust Brand into the captain’s chair of the Russia probe, at least until the Senate confirmed a new deputy attorney general.
Brand, who was confirmed to her position last month in a close 52-46 Senate vote, has been active in Republican politics.
Federal Election Commission records show she has donated around $30,000 to various Republican congressional and presidential candidates. She contributed to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign last year as well as to Ohio Sen. Rob Portman.