Former deputy FBI director: Russia probe is not a 'witch hunt'
© Greg Nash

The No. 2 official at the FBI under ex-Director Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE defended on Sunday the appointment of his former boss as special counsel in the bureau's Russia investigation, rebutting President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden administration to keep Trump-era rule of turning away migrants during pandemic On The Money: Biden, Pelosi struggle with end of eviction ban | Trump attorney says he will fight release of tax returns Lack of transatlantic cooperation on trade threatens global climate change goals MORE's assertion that the probe amounts to a "witch hunt."

"The focus is on the Russian influence with the Trump campaign and the administration if it's there," former FBI Deputy Director Tim MurphyTim MurphyOur approach to schizophrenia is failing Conor Lamb defeats Trump-backed challenger for reelection in Pennsylvania Biden receives endorsements from three swing-district Democrats MORE told radio host John Catsimatidis. "Now, that's his mandate, and I think Bob Mueller will stick to his mandate. He's not going to run down paths. It's not going to be ... a witch hunt."

His comments followed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's appointment on Wednesday of Mueller as special counsel on the FBI's probe of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow during the 2016 campaign. 

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Trump has repeatedly denied any coordination with Russia and called Mueller's appointment "a witch hunt" that "hurts our country." But Murphy rejected that claim, saying that installing Mueller as a special counsel would help the public regain faith in the FBI.

"This is a great thing for America," he said. "I know we're in New York and a line in New York would be 'Batman is back to save Gotham,' but I think in this case Batman is back to save America.

"There isn't a doubt in my mind that you were not going to influence [Mueller] on an investigation or anything. He knows what he feels is right, based on his experiences in law enforcement and the private sector and the Department of Justice ... you aren't going to sway him."

Murphy also defended FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyBiden sister has book deal, set to publish in April Mystery surrounds Justice's pledge on journalist records NYT publisher: DOJ phone records seizure a 'dangerous incursion' on press freedom MORE, who was abruptly fired by Trump earlier this month. Trump has acknowledged that he thought of the FBI's Russia investigation as part of his decision to oust Comey, and told visiting Russia officials that doing so relieved him of "great pressure." He also called Comey "crazy" and "nut job."

"Director Comey had a large, loyal following in the FBI. They love Director Comey," Murphy said. "You may have had people on the inside that disagree with the way he may have handled something, but that's common in a large organization like that."