U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told lawmakers Wednesday he has no reason to dismiss Robert Mueller, who is leading the special counsel investigation into whether Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential election.
Rosenstein testified before the House Judiciary Committee one day after the release of hundreds of text messages between two FBI officials on Mueller’s team of investigators revealed anti-Trump views, prompting some to question the non-partisan nature of the law enforcement agency.
Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller and oversees his team’s work, faced questions about Mueller from Democratic committee member Jerrold Nadler.
Nadler: “Have you seen good cause to fire Mr. Mueller?”
Nadler: “If you were ordered today to fire Mr. Mueller, what would you do?”
Rosenstein: “As I’ve explained previously, I would follow the regulation. If there were good cause, I would act. If there were no good cause, I would not.”
Nadler: “And you’ve seen no good cause so far?”
Questions about the integrity of the special counsel probe arose after FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok was removed last summer from Mueller’s team following the discovery of text messages Strzok exchanged with Lisa Page, an FBI lawyer who had been assigned this year to a team of agents and prosecutors investigating Russia’s involvement in the election.
The messages, first disclosed in news reports earlier this month, were being provided to congressional committees and were reviewed by some media organizations Tuesday night.
Trump and Republican lawmakers used the revelation to accuse the FBI of being politically tainted and suggested conclusions reached by Mueller’s team couldn’t be trusted.
Among the 375 messages released Tuesday was an exchange that occurred on March 4, 2016. Page described Trump as a “loathsome human” and Strzok responded, “Yet he may win [the presidential election].” After Strzok asked if she believed Trump would be a worse president than fellow Republican Ted Cruz, Page responded, “Yes, I think so.”
Page and Strzok also sent derogatory comments about Democratic officials, including presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and former Attorney General Eric Holder.
While Strzok texted in August 2016, “I am worried about what Trump is encouraging in our behavior,” he also wrote, “I’m worried about what happens if HRC [Hillary Rodham Clinton] is elected.”
The Justice Department’s inspector general is investigating the texts as part of a broad probe into how the FBI handled its investigations into Clinton’s personal email server and of the Trump campaign’s link to Moscow.