May 18 (UPI) — Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was expected to brief the U.S. Senate Thursday on his appointment of a special counsel to investigate possible Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election — a move decried by President Donald Trump.
Rosenstein was initially invited to attend a closed-door session to explain the president’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, but the topic changed after Rosenstein appointed former bureau chief Robert Mueller to start an independent investigation of suspected Russian interference in the campaign.
Rosenstein, along with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, recommended Comey’s firing to Trump last week — ostensibly criticizing him for the FBI’s handling of candidate Hillary Clinton‘s emails. The White House deflected criticism of the dismissal by identifying Rosenstein’s recommendation as the reason, but Trump later said the firing was imminent regardless of Rosenstein’s opinion.
In an unusual move Thursday, Trump publicly slammed the decision by his Justice Department to appoint Mueller to the case.
“With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign & Obama Administration, there was never a special counsel appointed!” he tweeted Thursday. “This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!”
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has offered Rosenstein a similar invitation to address House members.
The briefing, and the question-and-answer session, comes after a week of White House chaos in which Trump also was accused of divulging classified information during a White House visit by Russia’s foreign minister and ambassador to the United States. Leaders of the Senate judiciary and intelligence committees have requested FBI and White House records regarding the conversation between Trump and Comey, and Comey has received an invitation to address Congress to explain the matter.
Senate Democrats demanded that Rosenstein appoint a special prosecutor, which was accomplished with Mueller’s appointment. Washington’s focus now turns to Mueller, and how he will conduct the FBI investigation into the alleged Russian involvement in the campaign.