The Trump administration official who has final authority over Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation gave a vote of confidence to the probe on Wednesday.
NBC Washington reports that Rosenstein says that he is satisfied with the Mueller inquiry, which began in May as an investigation into Russian interference in the presidential campaign.
Rosenstein appointed Mueller to the special counsel position in May after President Trump fired James Comey as FBI director. Rosenstein was in the position to make that appointment because Attorney General Jeff Sessions had recused himself from Russia-related matters because of his ties to the Trump campaign.
If Mueller were ever fired as special counsel — a move urged by an increasing number of Republicans — Rosenstein would be the official charged with pulling the trigger. If he refused Trump’s demands to can Mueller, and if Trump insisted, he would have to replace Rosenstein.
Mueller’s investigation has come under fire from Trump supporters, especially in the wake of recent reports that a top FBI investigator who served on the Mueller team was demoted for sending anti-Trump text messages.
Rosenstein gave no indication that he was troubled by the text messages, which were sent by former counterintelligence official Peter Strzok.
Instead, Rosenstein appeared to endorse the legal actions taken so far in the investigation.
“When we conduct criminal investigations — just as was true in Maryland – we don’t talk about the investigation while it’s ongoing,” Rosenstein, a former U.S. attorney for Baltimore, told NBC Washington.
“So what the American people will see is only if and when a case is charged. And there are several cases that have been charged to date.”
Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business partner, Rick Gates, have been indicted by Mueller’s team for money laundering activities that appear not to be linked to the collusion question.
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos have pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about their contacts with Russians.
In his interview with NBC Washington, Rosenstein also reiterated that he is the DOJ official accountable for the Mueller probe.
“The Office of Special Counsel, as you know, has a degree of autonomy from the Department of Justice. But there is appropriate oversight by the department. That includes budget. But it also includes certain other details of the office. It is part of the Department of Justice. And we’re accountable for it,” he said.