Russia probe causes tension among top officials at Justice Department

Donald trump

Amid reports Donald Trump is unhappy with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's closeness with fired FBI Director James Comey, the top ethics lawyer from ex-President George W. Bush's administration said Saturday Vice President Mike Pence will "soon become" the next USA president.

President Trump can not invoke executive privilege in relation to the Mueller investigation because it is being conducted by the Justice Department, an arm of the executive branch itself.

Mueller's move came after Comey said in his June 8 testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee that he intentionally handed over his memos, detailing each conversation he had with the president, over to Mueller.

But Rosenstein has privately told people at the Justice Department, as ABC News first reported, that he may need to step aside from his role supervising the special-counsel investigation, according to officials familiar with the conversations. Eight days after Trump fired Comey, Rosenstein named Mueller special prosecutor, giving him significant independent resources to continue the Russian Federation investigation.

The president is not and has not been under investigation for obstruction, " lawyer Jay Sekulow from Trump's legal team told NBC's Meet The Press program.

Mr. Rosenstein wrote a memo used by the White House to justify Comey's firing, prompting him to reportedly threaten to resign since the memo, though critical of the former director's performance, did not recommend his termination. And, short of firing Mueller - which would be political suicide for Trump - he just has to wait and see how it plays out. "As the deputy attorney general has said numerous times, if there comes a point when he needs to recuse, he will", Justice Department spokesman Ian Prior said in a statement. "Witch Hunt", the president wrote on Twitter.

"I appointed him. I stand by that decision", Rosenstein said.

The special counsel is looking for evidence to support claims that Trump's associates illegally colluded with Moscow during the president's victorious run for the White House past year.

Rosenstein, the former USA attorney in Maryland, was forced to take over supervision of the Russian Federation investigation because Attorney General Jeff Sessions had recused himself.

The Republican National Committee denounced the Washington Post report on Mueller now targeting Trump for a potential obstruction of justice charged, declaring, "This story is nothing more than an example of even more leaks coming out of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and special counsel's office in an effort to undermine the President".

Right-wing media backers of Trump have been preparing the ground for Trump to fire Rosenstein, Mueller or both. An official of Trump's transition confirmed the lawyer's internal order, which was sent Thursday. The order also covers separate inquiries into several key Trump associates including former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, campaign adviser Paul Manafort, foreign policy aide Carter Page and outside adviser Roger Stone.

The Twitter attacks came as Vice-President Mike Pence hired a personal lawyer to represent him in the intensifying investigation.


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