Washington (CNN)Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein offered full-throated support for special counsel Robert Mueller and defended his investigation into Russian election meddling as it weathers criticism in an interview with USA Today published Monday.
Rod Rosenstein: Special counsel 'not an unguided missile'
"The special counsel is not an unguided missile," Rosenstein told the newspaper. "I don't believe there is any justification at this point for terminating the special counsel."
Mueller has been in the crosshairs of President Donald Trump and Republican critics as his probe has unfolded and grown since beginning under Rosenstein's direction in May. The endorsement from Rosenstein, who has oversight of the probe given the recusal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions from matters related to the election, came after reports earlier in the year that Trump had tried to fire Mueller last summer.
Rosenstein also appeared unfazed by attacks by Trump against him and the wider integrity of the Justice Department, USA Today reported. Four sources told CNN in January that Trump had been venting about Rosenstein in private, and a Tea Party-aligned group spent six figures last month on an advertisement that slammed him as a "weak careerist."
"I believe much of the criticism will fall by the wayside when people reflect on this era and the Department of Justice," Rosenstein said Monday, not referring to Trump directly. "I'm very confident that when the history of this era is written, it will reflect that the department was operated with integrity."
In the interview, Rosenstein said his involvement with the probe only represents "a fraction" of his daily work -- estimating that it takes up less than 5% of his week -- and pointed to the DOJ's efforts to combat violent crime and opioid addiction as focuses.
"Most of the work goes unheralded and un-criticized," he said. "I anticipated that this would be a lower-profile job."