GOP lawmakers say Trump would make mistake in firing Rosenstein


Republicans say President TrumpDonald John TrumpStormy Daniels on statement denying Trump affair: ‘I do not know where it came from’ Five Takeaways from Trump’s State of the Union Van Jones: Trump ‘selling sweet-tasting candy with poison in it’ MORE would be making a big mistake in firing Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinTrump tells Republican he’s ‘100 percent’ for releasing Nunes memo DOJ made last-minute plea to WH not to release classified memo: report McConnell: Mueller needs ‘no protection’ from Trump MORE.

The Justice Department’s No. 2 official has been in the president’s crosshairs since appointing special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE to lead the agency’s Russia investigation.

He’s the only official who could fire Mueller given Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsWhat Trump didn’t say in his State of the Union address DOJ made last-minute plea to WH not to release classified memo: report Overnight Regulation: Dems go on attack during EPA chief’s hearing | Mnuchin promises more Russia sanctions | Regulators subpoena major bitcoin exchange | New lawsuit over FDA e-cig rule MORE’s decision to recuse himself from Russia-related matters.

Some Republicans are now worried that a soon-to-be-released memo from GOP staff on the House Intelligence Committee could hand Trump more ammunition to fire Rosenstein — a move they fear would boomerang on the White House and Republicans running for reelection in the House and Senate.

Removing Rosenstein “raises more flags than it dismisses,” said Rep. Mark SanfordMarshall (Mark) Clement SanfordGOP reps demand answers from FBI on missing texts Trump action on tariffs triggers GOP alarm Overnight Regulation: Florida decision puts Trump drilling plan on shaky ground | Trump floats staying in Paris climate deal | Dems rush into net neutrality fight MORE (S.C.), one of several Republicans who told The Hill on the record that Trump should not fire the deputy attorney general.

Ousting Rosenstein would only make Trump look guilty, according to Sanford.

“That’s why a whole host of folks inside and outside the White House have warned against that kind of thing,” he said.

“I’m a fan of letting the process run its course,” said Rep. David JoyceDavid Patrick JoyceEven some conservatives seem open to return to earmarks The Hill’s Whip List: Where Republicans stand on tax-reform bill Bipartisan Great Lakes legislation deserves attention MORE (R-Ohio), a former county prosecutor. “I think we should let Rosenstein, Mueller and everybody else do their jobs and wait to see what the outcome is.”

“I would advise [Trump] not to do that and I don’t think he will,” added Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), an attorney.

“Bad idea,” Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeOvernight Finance: Mnuchin promises new Russia sanctions after uproar | Dow drops ahead of Trump State of the Union | GOP senators call on Trump to protect NAFTA | Regulators subpoena major bitcoin exchange Key senator floats new compromise for immigration talks McConnell on midterms: ‘We do have a pretty good map’ MORE (R-Ariz.), who has frequently clashed with Trump, chimed in. “It was a bad idea to fire [former FBI Director James] Comey. I think he recognizes that by now, because that’s what got him Mueller. And this would [lead to] just trouble.”

Most GOP lawmakers are in favor of making the House Intelligence Committee memo public, arguing that doing so would let Americans make up their own minds on whether the FBI went too far in seeking surveillance warrants related to the probe of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election.

The memo, which the committee voted on Monday night to make public along party lines, has been sent to the White House, which has five days to decide whether to allow its release. It is believed to report that Rosenstein gave the green light to continue surveillance of Trump campaign official Carter Page last spring. Democrats on the panel argue it is little more than a set of cherry-picked GOP talking points and have produced their own memo, though the committee voted against making it public.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanWhat Trump didn’t say in his State of the Union address Overnight Cybersecurity: Ryan urges lawmakers not to overplay intel memo | Spotlight on cyber threats to small businesses | The Hill sits down with DHS cyber chief | CIA expects more election interference Ricketts to replace Steve Wynn as RNC finance chair MORE (R-Wis.) was prepared with notes to answer questions about the memo and Rosenstein at his press conference on Tuesday, and was quick to walk a careful line.

Asked about Trump’s private grumblings about Rosenstein, he defended the Justice official, saying he was doing a “fine job” and that he saw “no reason” why Trump should fire him.

The Speaker also noted that Rosenstein, who served as U.S. attorney for Maryland under Presidents George W. Bush and Obama, was appointed deputy attorney general after the 2016 election.

But Ryan offered support for Republicans on the Intelligence panel and criticism of the FBI, saying it was up to the Department of Justice and FBI to “clean their own house” if they have personnel problems.

The Intelligence memo criticizes the department and the FBI for failing to adequately explain to a secret spy court that some of the information included in a surveillance application for Page came from opposition research paid for in part by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMelania Trump wears white pantsuit to State of the Union Clinton posts explanation for not firing campaign staffer accused of sexual harassment DNC vice chairman to RNC spokeswoman: ‘You endorsed an alleged pedophile’ MORE.

The Republican warnings that Trump not fire Rosenstein come a day after FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, whom Trump openly accused of being biased against him, announced he would step down weeks earlier than had been expected.

McCabe had been Comey’s top deputy before Trump fired Comey last May as he investigated possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

In a brief interview Tuesday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesFive Takeaways from Trump’s State of the Union Trump tells Republican he’s ‘100 percent’ for releasing Nunes memo What Trump didn’t say in his State of the Union address MORE (R-Calif.) said he had “no idea” and “no knowledge” of any plans by Trump to fire Rosenstein.

Top Trump allies on Capitol Hill did not explicitly call for Rosenstein’s ouster on Tuesday. House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsRyan urges lawmakers: Don’t overplay memo House GOP leaders not whipping conservative immigration bill Freedom Caucus may oppose next stopgap funding bill MORE (R-N.C.) declined to comment for this story. But Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanThe classified Intel memo: What you need to know Trump immigration plan hits wall of opposition GOP reps demand answers from FBI on missing texts MORE (R-Ohio), a former head of the Freedom Caucus, suggested Rosenstein was less than forthcoming when he questioned him at a recent hearing about potential anti-Trump bias at the Justice Department.

During that House Judiciary Committee hearing last month, Rosenstein stood by Mueller and said he would not fire him without good cause.

“I didn’t feel like his answers were all that great on the committee,” Jordan told The Hill on Tuesday. “That was my one interaction with him, and I wasn’t too impressed.”

Trump had considered firing Rosenstein last summer, The New York Times reported. Instead, he ordered White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller, but the president backed down after McGahn threatened to quit.

There is speculation on Capitol Hill that if Trump got rid of Rosenstein, he could replace him with a political ally who would fire Mueller and stop the federal Russia probe, which now includes whether Trump committed obstruction of justice.

But some top legal minds in the GOP are warning fellow Republicans to back off. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyOvernight Health Care: House to begin hearings on bills to fight opioids | Groups rally against cuts to anti-drug office | Departures test insurance lobby’s clout | Amazon teaming up to cut health care costs Oversight chairman threatens to subpoena HHS for withholding information House Intel votes to make Nunes memo public MORE (R-S.C.) said on “Fox News Sunday” that he has “100 percent” confidence in Mueller to conduct a fair investigation and urged his colleagues to “leave him the hell alone.”

“I’d follow the good advice of Trey Gowdy of keeping Mueller. Let him do his thing,” said Rep. Tim WalbergTimothy (Tim) Lee WalbergEmboldened conservatives press Ryan to bring hard-right immigration bill to floor Week ahead: GOP looks to overhaul natural gas, utilities laws GOP bill scraps voter registration requirements for colleges MORE (R-Mich.). “I think if you do any type of firing, you just resurrect all the partisan stuff.”

One frequent GOP Trump critic, Rep. Walter JonesWalter Beaman JonesOvernight Defense: Latest as shutdown looms | Ryan says budget fights pushed military past ‘breaking point’ | Lawmakers seek military hotline with North Korea | Judge bars transfer of detained US-Saudi citizen Lawmakers call for military-to-military communications with North Korea Afghanistan moves reignite war authorization debate MORE (N.C.), said it’d be foolish to try to halt the Mueller probe given that it’s now in the “fourth quarter.”

“Mueller is doing the people’s work, Rosenstein selected him, and I think if you have nothing to hide, them you would want to encourage them to complete the job,” Jones told The Hill. “When you start terminating those for doing their job, there’s something wrong.”

Firing Rosenstein now, Jones said, “would create a national concern by a lot of people.”

Katie Bo Williams contributed.

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