Former FBI Director James Comey, whose firing by Trump last week started his latest round of problems, has signaled he could leave a paper trail documenting his interactions with Trump.
Clearly unaccustomed to many aspects of his new job, and hell-bent on relying on glad-handing and smarm to curry favor and "make deals", Trump repeatedly tried to get Comey on his side, via, among other things, a dinner where he asked Comey to pledge his loyalty, all while Comey was overseeing the investigation into Russian interference in the election. That is likely one of the reasons Rosenstein named a special counsel Wednesday to lead an independent investigation into whether anyone on the Trump campaign cooperated with Russian Federation. Some Democrats have lauded the appointment, seeing it as corroborating their allegations about collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin to flip the election.
Rosenstein will give House members a similar briefing Friday morning.
Mueller, a former federal prosecutor at the Justice Department, was confirmed as FBI director days before the September 11, 2001, attacks that would ultimately shape his tenure.
At the time, the president's national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, flatly said the story was entirely untrue, but refused to take any questions.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said after the meeting that Rosenstein had essentially confirmed Trump's recounting.
On McCaskill's recollection that Rosenstein said he knew of Comey's firing before writing the memo, Rubio said, "I'm not sure he addressed that with a level of clarity that most people wanted to hear". "Russian Federation is fine", the president said. "We didn't really get good answers on that".
Mueller's designation falls outside the normal Department of Justice chain of command, giving him "an extra layer of impartiality" from the White House, Cohen says.
While Trump issued stern denials, the focus of the political drama turned to Capitol Hill, where Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein met with the full Senate in private to brief them on his decision to appoint Robert Mueller to serve as special counsel and take charge of the department's Russian Federation investigation.
Unlike Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel appointed by a three-judge panel to investigate Bill and Hillary Clinton's real estate holdings in the 1990s, Mueller depends on the Justice Department for funding and he reports to Rosenstein, who was appointed by Trump.
Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence committee, said he "made a very strong comment" to Rosenstein Thursday about the committee and the Justice Department having "different purposes and different standards".
But in the short term, the hiring of the former FBI director to run the investigation is actually a boon to the White House. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) declared outside of the meeting.
"I look forward to this matter concluding quickly", Mr. Trump said in the statement.
"We're going to have a director that's going to be outstanding".
"I don't think there's a way out", said Robert Jervis, an expert in national security policy at Columbia University.
Rosenstein had the responsibility of deciding to appoint a special counsel because Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a former surrogate for the Trump campaign, has recused himself from decisions on the issue.
"The Committee looks forward to receiving testimony from the former (FBI) director on his role in the development of the Intelligence Community Assessment on Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections", Senator Richard Burr, chairman of the Committee, said.
Rosenstein said the Mueller appointment was "necessary in order for the American people to have full confidence in the outcome".