US Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who has protected the Russia collusion investigation from attacks by the White House and Republicans, plans to step down after the expected confirmation of William Barr as attorney general, US media reported Wednesday.
The move would come as the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller increasingly focuses on President Donald Trump and his inner circle, after issuing indictments for 33 individuals and securing convictions of three former top Trump aides.
He gave Mueller, himself a former FBI director, broad authority to investigate tangential issues that arose from his core investigation into the Russian election activities.
Trump, who viewed Sessions' recusal as a betrayal, forced him to resign in November and made Matthew Whitaker, a Republican political activist and Mueller critic, the acting attorney general.
That gave Whitaker, who refused to recuse himself, oversight of the Mueller probe until a new attorney general is confirmed.
Barr also has criticised the Mueller probe as over-broad and staffed by Democratic supporters, raising concerns he could interfere with investigators as they turn their focus on the White House.
According to media reports, citing people close to Rosenstein, he has not set a date to leave, but will wait for Barr to settle in at the Justice Department.
Barr will be grilled over his views of Mueller and other key issues in confirmation hearings at the Senate Judiciary Committee next week.
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