According to an article posted by the Associated Press today, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said that if he were to become a subject of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible ties between President Trump’s campaign and Russia’s government that he would recuse himself of any oversight of Mueller.
Rosenstein during the AP interview indicated that he has already spoken to Mueller regarding this matter. In regards to the conversation he had, the article quotes Rosenstein as saying “He’s going to make the appropriate decisions, and if anything that I did winds up being relevant to his investigation then, as Director Mueller and I discussed, if there’s a need from me to recuse I will.”
The interview with the AP was part of the discussion around Mueller taking over a separate criminal probe of President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. It is possible that the probe could branch out and into the roles of the attorney general and deputy attorney general in the firing of now former FBI Director James Comey.
Robert Mueller and James Comey have a close personal relationship. They both shared the moniker of FBI Director and Comey was seen as Mueller’s protege when he succeeded him in that role in 2013. They also stood united in 2004 as then deputy attorney general Comey and Mueller as FBI director as they intervened at the then ailing Ashcroft’s bedside over the re-authorization of an NSA spying program under President G.W. Bush. Both men threatened to resign their posts over the matter.
For me this brings forth a question pertaining to the investigation Mueller is overseeing as special counsel regarding possible Russian ties to President Trump’s campaign. If Rosenstein should end up recusing himself from having oversight of Mueller in the investigation based on his writing of the letter supporting the firing of James Comey, should it not also stand to reason that Mueller should resign as special counsel for the investigation based on conflict of interest?
There are laws surrounding the appointment and oversight of special counsels. In particular 28 CFR 600.7 where in section (d) it states:
“The Special Counsel may be disciplined or removed from office only by the personal action of the Attorney General. The Attorney General may remove a Special Counsel for misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest, or for other good cause, including violation of Departmental policies. The Attorney General shall inform the Special Counsel in writing of the specific reason for his or her removal.”
Given their relationship, should the scope of Mueller’s investigation into possible ties between President Trump’s campaign and Russia’s government broaden to bring the firing of James Comey into view – that is exactly what should happen. Whether or not this will become an issue remains to be seen and depends greatly upon exactly where Mueller’s investigation leads.