Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein staunchly defended FBI special counsel Robert Mueller during an interview with USA Today published Monday, saying the former FBI chief is "not an unguided missile" and there is no justification for firing him.
Rosenstein is tasked with overseeing Mueller, who was appointed last May to lead the investigation into Russian election interference. His comments follow The New York Times report published in late January that said President Donald Trump attempted to fire Mueller last summer but relented when White House counsel Don McGahn threatened to resign if forced to carry out the directive.
Trump has repeatedly downplayed Mueller's probe, calling it a witch hunt.
Rosenstein also defended the Justice Department, telling USA Today he believes "much of the criticism will fall by the wayside when people reflect on this era and the Department of Justice."
"I'm very confident that when the history of this era is written, it will reflect that the department was operated with integrity."
Trump has slammed the Justice Department for politicizing the Russia probe.
Of his role, Rosenstein said he anticipated it would be a "lower-profile job," but the criticism comes with it.
"It's inevitable that the deputy attorney general will get caught up in matters that are the subject of public controversy," he said.
"We need to do what we believe is right based on the facts and the law. To the extent we get any criticism from any side, we need to set that aside. That can't influence us in our decision making."
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