National Security

Rosenstein defends AG nominee Barr, says Mueller probe will be ‘handled appropriately’

Greg Nash

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said Thursday that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation will be “handled appropriately” no matter who is overseeing it.

Responding to questions at the Justice Department, Rosenstein dismissed concerns raised over the appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general and President Trump’s nomination of William Barr to serve atop the Justice Department. Both have been publicly critical of Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. 

{mosads}“We’ve continued to manage the investigation as we have in the past,” Rosenstein said. “It’s going to be handled appropriately by the Department of Justice.”

Rosenstein was specifically asked to respond to a new Wall Street Journal report that Barr, who served as attorney general under George H.W. Bush, sent a memo to the Justice Department earlier this year criticizing the Mueller investigation as based on a “fatally misconceived” theory.

Rosenstein, appearing to confirm the existence of the unsolicited June 8 memo, vociferously defended Barr and his record and said he would be “an excellent attorney general when he is confirmed next year.” 

“Lots of people offer opinions to the Department of Justice, but they don’t influence our decisionmaking,” Rosenstein said, adding that he never shared nonpublic information about the investigation with Barr. 

Barr has been scrutinized for critical statements he has made about the Mueller investigation since Trump nominated him Dec. 7.

Barr is expected to face a difficult confirmation battle in the Senate when Congress returns next year. Meanwhile, Whitaker, who replaced Jeff Sessions when he abruptly resigned in November at Trump’s request, will continue to serve as attorney general in an acting capacity.

Whitaker has been subject to scrutiny of his own for op-eds he has written in which he criticized Mueller’s investigation, including one that suggested the probe was in danger of crossing a red line.

Rosenstein has been overseeing the Mueller investigation as a result of Sessions’s recusal, and some have argued that Whitaker should also be forced to recuse himself as a result of his previous opinions on the investigation. However, reports emerged early Thursday that Whitaker had been cleared by ethics officials to oversee the probe.

Rosenstein indicated Thursday that the Justice Department would have a forthcoming announcement about oversight of the investigation.

Tags Donald Trump Jeff Sessions Robert Mueller Rod Rosenstein

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