Top prosecutor 'won't be extorted' over Republican threat

Washington (AFP) –


US Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said Tuesday the Justice Department would not bow to threats after Republicans in Congress prepared documents to remove him.

"The Department of Justice is not going to be extorted," said Rosenstein, who has direct authority over the investigation of possible links between Donald Trump's presidential campaign and Russia during the 2016 election.

"Any kind of threats that anybody makes are not going to affect the way we do our job," said Rosenstein, speaking at a Freedom Forum event in Washington.

"We're going to do what's required by the rule of law."

Rosenstein made the statement after conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives drafted an impeachment measure against him, which if passed could eliminate the main protector of Russia probe Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Mueller's investigation is closing in on Trump's inner circle and the president himself over alleged collusion with Russia, as well as obstruction of justice.

The Washington Post said the unsigned draft articles of impeachment were drawn up by the Freedom Caucus, a Republican group that strongly backs Trump.

The group, and other Republicans in Congress, have been pressuring the Justice Department and Rosenstein to hand over classified information related to Justice Department investigations on Russia and on Trump's one-time Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

There was no sign that they were ready to act on the threat to impeach Rosenstein, and Freedom Caucus leader Mark Meadows called it a "last resort," Politico reported.

Trump himself has mulled to aides firing both Rosenstein and Mueller in frustration over the year-old investigation, which has already yielded 19 indictments, including three former top Trump campaign officials.

News of the draft came after The New York Times reported late Tuesday that questions Mueller's team had recently provided the White House for Trump indicated they were examining allegations that the president tried to obstruct the Russia probe.

The list of questions seeks to find out Trump's frame of mind when he fired former FBI director James Comey.

They also ask what Trump knew about the many contacts between members of his campaign and Russians.

Trump's lawyers have not indicated whether he would accept to be interviewed by Mueller.

"It would seem very hard to obstruct justice for a crime that never happened! Witch Hunt!" Trump shot back in a round of early-morning tweets.