Sessions, Democrats Defend Rosenstein Amid Trump Criticism

Democratic congresssional leaders warned the president against firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein or special counsel Bob Mueller based on the memo

Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, on Friday in the face of criticism from the president, who wouldn't say if he still has confidence in Rosenstein.

Sessions broke from prepared remarks in a speech on human trafficking. He praised Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who is overseeing the special counsel's Russia probe, as well as the department's No. 3 official, Rachel Brand.

Standing on a stage with them, Sessions said both are experienced lawyers and "represent the kind of quality and leadership that we want in the department."

That's a departure from President Donald Trump.

After Trump announced on Friday the declassification of a disputed memo on the Russia probe, he was asked whether he has confidence in Rosenstein. Trump said, "You figure that one out."

The partisan memo alleges the FBI abused surveillance powers in its investigation into possible cooperation between Russia and the Trump campaign, prompting Trump to say, "a lot of people should be ashamed of themselves."

The FBI has declared it has "grave concerns" about the memo's accuracy, and Democrats have said it cherry-picks intelligence in an effort to smear law enforcement investigating whether Trump associates collaborated with Russia to sway the 2016 presidential election.

After the memo was released, Democratic congresssional leaders warned Trump against firing Rosenstein or special counsel Bob Mueller based on the document, saying "we would consider such an unwarranted action as an attempt to obstruct justice in the Russia investigation" comparable to the Saturday Night Massacre, when President Richard Nixon ordered his attorney general and deputy attorney general to fire the special counsel investigating Watergate, which resulted in their resignations.

The Democrats' letter to Trump was signed by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and eight other members of the party's congressional leadership.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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