Graham questions if Rosenstein can remain in charge of Mueller probe
© Greg Nash
GOP Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamPassage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is the first step to heal our democracy Progressive support builds for expanding lower courts McConnell backs Garland for attorney general MORE (S.C.) is questioning if Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinRosenstein: Zero tolerance immigration policy 'never should have been proposed or implemented' Comey argues Trump shouldn't be prosecuted after leaving Oval Office Trump turns his ire toward Cabinet members MORE can remain in charge of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump MORE's probe into the 2016 election. 
 
Graham said he believes Rosenstein is "conflicted" because of the Justice Department official's role in the firing of then-FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyJohn Durham's endgame: Don't expect criminal charges Trump DOJ officials sought to block search of Giuliani records: report Tina Fey, Amy Poehler to host Golden Globes from separate coasts amid pandemic MORE. Rosenstein drafted a memo that the Trump administration initially used to justify the firing. 
 
"If you're looking at obstruction of justice misconduct post-presidency, the Comey firing as being a form of obstruction of justice, then Rosenstein is a key witness in that and you can't be a witness and oversee the investigation," Graham told reporters on Tuesday
 
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Graham's comments come after he sent Rosenstein a letter, dated from late last month, questioning his role overseeing the investigation into Russia's election interference and potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow. 
 
Graham noted in the letter that it has been "widely reported" that Mueller's probe also includes investigating if President TrumpDonald TrumpSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Georgia secretary of state withholds support for 'reactionary' GOP voting bills MORE obstructed the Russia investigation by firing Comey. 
 
"Do you consider yourself a potential witness in the Mueller investigation regarding the firing of Director Comey by President Trump?" Graham asked in the letter. 
 
If the answer is yes, Graham then asked if Rosenstein believes he should step back from the Mueller probe.
 
Graham indicated on Tuesday that Rosenstein had not yet responded to his letter. 
 
"He's a fine man, very ethical, good guy, but we're going to play this thing straight," Graham said. "Here's the question for Rosenstein, if you're going to be a fact witness as to why Comey was fired, how do you stay involved?" 
 
The White House initially pointed to Rosenstein's memo, which took aim at Comey's handling of the probe into Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonShelby endorses Shalanda Young for OMB director should Biden pull Tanden's nomination Jennifer Palmieri: 'Ever since I was aware of politics, I wanted to be in politics' Cruz: Wife 'pretty pissed' about leaked Cancun texts MORE's private email server, as the basis for his firing. But Trump later indicated he was prepared to fire Comey regardless of the recommendation from the Justice Department. 

"I was going to fire Comey. There's no good time to do it, by the way," he told NBC News last year, calling Comey a "showboat" and "grandstander."

Rosenstein has reportedly explored potentially stepping back from the Russia investigation. 
 
CNN reported in April that Rosenstein consulted with ethics officials about his role. And sources told ABC News in June 2017 that Rosenstein raised the issue with Rachel Brand, who was the No. 3 Justice Department official at the time. 
 
Rosenstein has emerged as a controversial figure in the Russia investigation. 
 
He initially enraged Democrats for the memo he wrote on Comey. More recently, he's emerged as a top target for Trump and his conservative allies on Capitol Hill, some of whom have urged the president to fire the deputy attorney general. 
 
"I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt,” Trump said in a tweet about Rosenstein last year. 
 
Rosenstein took over the Russia investigation after Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsManchin flexes muscle in 50-50 Senate Udalls: Haaland criticism motivated 'by something other than her record' Ocasio-Cortez targets Manchin over Haaland confirmation MORE recused himself because of his role as an adviser for Trump's presidential campaign. 
 
Trump reiterated on Tuesday that he would not have picked Sessions to be his attorney general if he had known that he was going to recuse himself. 

"The Russian Witch Hunt Hoax continues, all because Jeff Sessions didn’t tell me he was going to recuse himself...I would have quickly picked someone else. So much time and money wasted, so many lives ruined...and Sessions knew better than most that there was No Collusion!" Trump said in a tweet.