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Justice official says he stands by critical memo on former FBI director

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Photographs by AP/JACQUELYN MARTIN

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein arrives Thursday on Capitol Hill in Washington for a closed meeting with senators a day after appointing former FBI Director Robert Mueller to oversee the investigation into possible ties between Russia and President Donald Trump’s campaign.

WASHINGTON — Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told Congress he stands by a memo he wrote that the White House has cited as a justification for the firing last week of FBI Director James Comey. But he said he had no intention of it being used that way.

In private meetings with lawmakers Thursday and Friday, Rosenstein said he wrote the memo after President Donald Trump told him one day before the May 9 firing that he wanted to dismiss Comey. He said that though he was personally fond of Comey, "I thought it was appropriate to seek a new leader."

The Justice Department on Friday issued a transcript of Rosenstein's remarks.

The White House has struggled since Comey's firing to explain the chain of events that led to it and who exactly made the decision. Trump said as recently as Thursday that he acted on a "very strong" recommendation from Rosenstein, but Rosenstein made it clear to Congress that he drafted his memo only after Trump told him of his plans to dismiss the FBI director.

He said he did not intend for the document to be a finding of misconduct or a "statement of reasons" to justify the firing, but he added: "I wrote it. I believe it. I stand by it."

Rosenstein, who Wednesday appointed a special counsel to investigate possible Russia-Trump campaign coordination during the 2016 presidential campaign, made his appearances before Congress as Trump was preparing to leave for his first foreign trip as president.

Trump has said he expected to nominate a new FBI director soon, and that had been expected before his departure Friday afternoon. However the White House said at midday that there would be no announcement Friday.

House members and senators said Rosenstein steered clear of specifics in answering questions about his appointment of former FBI director as special counsel but made clear that Mueller has wide latitude to pursue the investigation wherever it leads, potentially including criminal charges.

Read Saturday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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