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GOP lawmakers say Trump would make mistake in firing Rosenstein

Republicans say President TrumpDonald TrumpIran claims U.S. to lift all oil sanctions but State Department says 'nothing is agreed' Ivanka Trump, Kushner distance themselves from Trump claims on election: CNN Overnight Defense: Joint Chiefs chairman clashes with GOP on critical race theory | House bill introduced to overhaul military justice system as sexual assault reform builds momentum MORE would be making a big mistake in firing Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinHouse Judiciary to probe DOJ's seizure of data from lawmakers, journalists The Hill's Morning Report - Biden-Putin meeting to dominate the week Media leaders to meet with Garland to discuss leak investigations MORE.

The Justice Department’s No. 2 official has been in the president’s crosshairs since appointing special counsel 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 to lead the agency’s Russia investigation.

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He’s the only official who could fire Mueller given Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThe Hill's Morning Report - After high-stakes Biden-Putin summit, what now? Border state governors rebel against Biden's immigration chaos Garland strikes down Trump-era asylum decisions MORE’s decision to recuse himself from Russia-related matters.

Some Republicans are now worried that a soon-to-be-released memo from GOP staff on the House Intelligence Committee could hand Trump more ammunition to fire Rosenstein — a move they fear would boomerang on the White House and Republicans running for reelection in the House and Senate.

Removing Rosenstein “raises more flags than it dismisses,” said Rep. Mark SanfordMark SanfordCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP GOP braces for wild week with momentous vote Lobbying world MORE (S.C.), one of several Republicans who told The Hill on the record that Trump should not fire the deputy attorney general.

Ousting Rosenstein would only make Trump look guilty, according to Sanford.

“That’s why a whole host of folks inside and outside the White House have warned against that kind of thing,” he said.

“I’m a fan of letting the process run its course,” said Rep. David JoyceDavid JoyceBipartisan lawmakers highlight COVID-19 impact on mental health, addiction The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Democrats await Manchin decision on voting rights bill Porter urges increased budget for children's National Parks program MORE (R-Ohio), a former county prosecutor. “I think we should let Rosenstein, Mueller and everybody else do their jobs and wait to see what the outcome is.”

“I would advise [Trump] not to do that and I don’t think he will,” added Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), an attorney.

“Bad idea,” Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeOn The Trail: Arizona is microcosm of battle for the GOP Trump looms large over fractured Arizona GOP Why Republican politicians are sticking with Trump MORE (R-Ariz.), who has frequently clashed with Trump, chimed in. “It was a bad idea to fire [former FBI Director James] Comey. I think he recognizes that by now, because that’s what got him Mueller. And this would [lead to] just trouble.”

Most GOP lawmakers are in favor of making the House Intelligence Committee memo public, arguing that doing so would let Americans make up their own minds on whether the FBI went too far in seeking surveillance warrants related to the probe of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election.

The memo, which the committee voted on Monday night to make public along party lines, has been sent to the White House, which has five days to decide whether to allow its release. It is believed to report that Rosenstein gave the green light to continue surveillance of Trump campaign official Carter Page last spring. Democrats on the panel argue it is little more than a set of cherry-picked GOP talking points and have produced their own memo, though the committee voted against making it public.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanTrump clash ahead: Ron DeSantis positions himself as GOP's future in a direct-mail piece Cutting critical family support won't solve the labor crisis Juan Williams: Trump's GOP descends into farce MORE (R-Wis.) was prepared with notes to answer questions about the memo and Rosenstein at his press conference on Tuesday, and was quick to walk a careful line.

Asked about Trump’s private grumblings about Rosenstein, he defended the Justice official, saying he was doing a “fine job” and that he saw “no reason” why Trump should fire him.

The Speaker also noted that Rosenstein, who served as U.S. attorney for Maryland under Presidents George W. Bush and Obama, was appointed deputy attorney general after the 2016 election.

But Ryan offered support for Republicans on the Intelligence panel and criticism of the FBI, saying it was up to the Department of Justice and FBI to “clean their own house” if they have personnel problems.

The Intelligence memo criticizes the department and the FBI for failing to adequately explain to a secret spy court that some of the information included in a surveillance application for Page came from opposition research paid for in part by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonCommunion vote puts spotlight on Hispanic Catholics Trump's biggest political obstacle is Trump The Memo: Some Democrats worry rising crime will cost them MORE.

The Republican warnings that Trump not fire Rosenstein come a day after FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, whom Trump openly accused of being biased against him, announced he would step down weeks earlier than had been expected.

McCabe had been Comey’s top deputy before Trump fired Comey last May as he investigated possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

In a brief interview Tuesday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesTech privacy practices under scrutiny after DOJ subpoenas GOP's Stefanik defends Trump DOJ secret subpoenas CNN reporter's phone and email records secretly obtained by Trump administration: report MORE (R-Calif.) said he had “no idea” and “no knowledge” of any plans by Trump to fire Rosenstein.

Top Trump allies on Capitol Hill did not explicitly call for Rosenstein’s ouster on Tuesday. House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsGOP governors embrace culture wars with White House in mind Tech industry pushes for delay in antitrust legislation Head of firms that pushed 'Italygate' theory falsely claimed VA mansion was her home: report MORE (R-N.C.) declined to comment for this story. But Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanTech antitrust bills create strange bedfellows in House markup White House uses Trump's words praising China to slam McCarthy's Biden criticism Powell says pickup in job gains likely this fall MORE (R-Ohio), a former head of the Freedom Caucus, suggested Rosenstein was less than forthcoming when he questioned him at a recent hearing about potential anti-Trump bias at the Justice Department.

During that House Judiciary Committee hearing last month, Rosenstein stood by Mueller and said he would not fire him without good cause.

“I didn’t feel like his answers were all that great on the committee,” Jordan told The Hill on Tuesday. “That was my one interaction with him, and I wasn’t too impressed.”

Trump had considered firing Rosenstein last summer, The New York Times reported. Instead, he ordered White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller, but the president backed down after McGahn threatened to quit.

There is speculation on Capitol Hill that if Trump got rid of Rosenstein, he could replace him with a political ally who would fire Mueller and stop the federal Russia probe, which now includes whether Trump committed obstruction of justice.

But some top legal minds in the GOP are warning fellow Republicans to back off. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey GowdyTrey GowdyTrey Gowdy sets goal of avoiding ideological echo chamber with Fox News show Fox News signs Trey Gowdy, Dan Bongino for new shows Pompeo rebukes Biden's new foreign policy MORE (R-S.C.) said on “Fox News Sunday” that he has “100 percent” confidence in Mueller to conduct a fair investigation and urged his colleagues to “leave him the hell alone.”

“I’d follow the good advice of Trey Gowdy of keeping Mueller. Let him do his thing,” said Rep. Tim WalbergTimothy (Tim) Lee WalbergRepublicans eye Nashville crack-up to gain House seat The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Masks off: CDC greenlights return to normal for vaccinated Americans Stefanik shake-up jump-starts early jockeying for committee posts MORE (R-Mich.). “I think if you do any type of firing, you just resurrect all the partisan stuff.”

One frequent GOP Trump critic, Rep. Walter JonesWalter JonesHillary Clinton brings up 'Freedom Fries' to mock 'cancel culture' Georgia officials open inquiry into Trump efforts to overturn election results Supreme Court declines to hear case challenging unlimited super PAC fundraising MORE (N.C.), said it’d be foolish to try to halt the Mueller probe given that it’s now in the “fourth quarter.”

“Mueller is doing the people’s work, Rosenstein selected him, and I think if you have nothing to hide, them you would want to encourage them to complete the job,” Jones told The Hill. “When you start terminating those for doing their job, there’s something wrong.”

Firing Rosenstein now, Jones said, “would create a national concern by a lot of people.”

Katie Bo Williams contributed.