U.S. senators of both political parties said Thursday that the public’s window into federal probes involving Russia and related matters could be constrained now that a special counsel has been appointed to lead the probe.
Senators spoke after meeting Thursday behind closed doors with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller to head the Justice Department’s investigation of Russian meddling in last year’s presidential election and any collusion by the Trump campaign.
“Congress’ ability to conduct investigations of all things Russia has been severely limited,” said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. “If I were Mr. Mueller, I would jealously guard the witness pool. So, one of the biggest losers in this decision is the public.”
Rosenstein’s appearance in the Senate was originally meant to allow him to explain why Trump abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey last week, but the focus changed when Rosenstein appointed Mueller as special counsel Wednesday night.
But Senator Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said Rosenstein told the senators that he knew Trump was going to fire Comey even before he, Rosenstein, wrote the memo that Trump used as justification for the dismissal.
Senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, told reporters Rosenstein was “very careful about not going into any details surrounding the removal of Comey because he wants to give Robert Mueller the opportunity to make an independent decision” about how to move forward on the case.
And Senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, who had been considered a contender for FBI director but removed himself from the running, said he thought senators were taking the investigation “enormously seriously.”