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US Justice Dept's Rosenstein, protector of Mueller probe, to step down: Media

AFP  |  Washington 

US Deputy Rod Rosenstein, who has protected the collusion investigation from attacks by the and Republicans, plans to step down after the expected confirmation of as attorney general, reported Wednesday.

The move would come as the investigation of increasingly focuses on and his inner circle, after issuing indictments for 33 individuals and securing convictions of three former top Trump aides.

"I know the deputy had always planned to stay around two years. He would like to help with the transition," said on Wednesday.

made the surprise appointment of Mueller to lead an independent investigation into whether Trump's election campaign colluded with in the 2016 on May 17, 2017.

That came eight days after Trump, angered over the looming probe, fired FBI

Since then, has endured heavy pressure from the and Republican lawmakers to curtail the investigation.

had responsibility to oversee Mueller because then-Jeff Sessions recused himself over his own contacts with Russians during the 2016 campaign.

He gave Mueller, himself a former FBI director, 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 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.

In December, Trump nominated Barr, a veteran who served as attorney general in the in 1991-1993.

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

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 next week.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, January 09 2019. 22:35 IST