As the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election – and any involvement from the Trump campaign – forges ahead, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has found himself on the receiving end of some Republicans’ ire.
Two months after a handful of House Republicans filed articles of impeachment against Rosenstein, the official once again rocked the Trump administration.
A bombshell report published by The New York Times on Sept. 21 alleges Rosenstein suggested secretly recording President Trump to expose chaos in the White House and enlisting Cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove him from office — accusations Rosenstein vehemently denied.
“The New York Times’s story is inaccurate and factually incorrect,” he told Fox News. “I will not further comment on a story based on anonymous sources who are obviously biased against the department and are advancing their own personal agenda. But let me clear about this: Based on my personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment.”
Special Counsel Robert Mueller is spearheading the Russia probe, but Rosenstein, 53, still oversees the federal investigation as deputy attorney general.
In the articles of impeachment filed in July, the group of 11 House Republicans accused Rosenstein of intentionally withholding documents and information from Congress, failure to comply with congressional subpoenas and abuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
“We’ve caught the Department of Justice hiding information, redacting information that they should not have redacted,” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, previously told Fox News. Jordan, who was one of the lawmakers who introduced the articles, also claimed Rosenstein attempted to intimidate House staffers with subpoenas.
Read on for a look at how Rosenstein is connected to the Russia investigation.
What is Rosenstein’s job?
Rosenstein was confirmed by the Senate as deputy attorney general in April 2017.
As deputy attorney general, he is responsible for day-to-day operations of the Justice Department and oversees its agencies, including the FBI.
How is he involved in the Russia investigation?
The appointment came after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the probe, and Rosenstein stepped in to oversee the investigation.
At the time, Rosenstein said his decision to appoint a special counsel was “not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted.”
Under Justice Department regulations, Mueller must consult with Rosenstein when his investigators uncover new evidence that may fall outside his original mandate. Rosenstein then determines whether to allow Mueller to proceed or to assign the matter to another U.S. attorney or part of Justice.
According to a memo from Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, Rosenstein signed at least one FISA surveillance application that targeted Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser on Trump’s campaign.
Did he have something to do with Comey’s firing?
Democrats were critical of Rosenstein after the White House used a memo he’d crafted as a reason to fire FBI Director James Comey in May 2017, Politico reported. Rosenstein reportedly drafted the memo after Trump had expressed his desire to fire Comey.
Rosenstein later told lawmakers on Capitol Hill that he stood by his memo. He said it was “not a finding of official misconduct” or “a statement of reasons to justify a for-cause termination.”
“Notwithstanding my personal affection for Director Comey, I thought it was appropriate to seek a new leader,” Rosenstein said.
What has the White House said about him?
As he has continued to deny any wrongdoing, Trump has been critical of the Russia investigation, particularly of Mueller’s handling of it.
In an April 11 tweet, Trump accused Mueller of being “conflicted” – and Rosenstein even more so.
Fox News’ Brooke Singman, Samuel Chamberlain, Gregg Re and The Associated Press contributed to this report.