Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has been interviewed as part the special counsel’s probe about the circumstances of former FBI Director James Comey’s firing, CBS News confirms.
Rosenstein authored a memo detailing concerns about how Comey handled the Hillary Clinton investigation into her use of a private server for her email while she was secretary of state. The White House initially cited Rosenstein’s memo as a reason for Comey’s firing.
This puts Rosenstein in the position of being a witness in an investigation he personally oversees. It’s also further evidence that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is considering the circumstances surrounding Comey’s firing as part of his investigation. The Justice Department effectively confirmed that Comey’s firing is within the scope of the investigation when it refused to allow two investigators to testify about the topic before Congress last week.
By late Wednesday morning, the Justice Department still maintained that Rosenstein’s role overseeing the Mueller investigation has not changed.
“As the Deputy Attorney General has said numerous times, if there comes a time when he needs to recuse, he will. However, nothing has changed,” the Justice Department said in a statement.
However, former Justice Department officials tell CBS News that it will be difficult both legally and politically for Rosenstein to continue in his current role, given that he is now a witness in this investigation.
Should he should recuse himself, Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, the third highest-ranking official at the Justice Department, would take over and provide oversight of the special counsel’s office.
The Wall Street Journal first reported that Rosenstein had been interviewed by the special counsel’s office.