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Durbin: Firing Mueller or Rosenstein over Nunes memo 'could precipitate a constitutional crisis'

Posted at 11:47 AM, Feb 04, 2018

The No. 2 Democrat in the Senate says Republicans may be setting the stage for a "constitutional crisis" if they use the Nunes memo to end the special counsel's Russia investigation.

"To say that that's the end of the investigation, that this is all that Donald Trump needs to fire (Deputy Attorney General Rod) Rosenstein or to fire (special counsel Robert) Mueller, I'll just tell you, this could precipitate a constitutional crisis," Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, said on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday.

The four-page memo alleges FBI abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, accusing the agency of improperly using information paid for in part by Hillary Clinton's campaign to obtain a FISA warrant for Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page. Trump has said the memo "totally vindicates" him in the Russia probe.

"If House Republicans believe that they've set the stage for this President to end this investigation, they are basically saying that in America, one man is above the law, and that's not a fact," Durbin added.

California Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, argued in an Esquire op-ed that Trump is seeking to seize the FBI for political ends.

"The norms and institutions protecting the Department of Justice from political interference in the years since have been tested, but never before as they are under President Donald Trump," Schiff wrote. "What we have witnessed during the first year of the Trump Administration is a determined effort to demolish the separation between politics and the fair administration of justice -- an attempt to turn the DOJ's investigative powers into the personal political tool of the President."

Last month, The New York Times reported that Trump tried to fire Mueller in June, though Trump denies this. And on Friday, Trump refused to say whether he would fire Rosenstein, who oversees the Russia investigation.

"You figure that one out," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office when asked about Rosenstein's potential termination.

When asked about Rosenstein's potential firing, White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah said Friday on CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront" that "no changes are going to be made" at the Justice Department.

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley made similar remarks on "Anderson Cooper 360" Friday night.

When asked if there were conversations about possibly firing Rosenstein, Gidley said: "No, not to my knowledge."

The firing of Mueller or Rosenstein would be "an extreme event" that "could lead to a confrontation we do not need in America," Durbin said.

Durbin would not predict how Democrats would react if either official is fired, but stressed that Republicans would have to "stand up for the rule of law" in such a scenario.

"We understand what the Constitution says we must do, and that is hold everyone in the United States, including the President of the United States, accountable if they've violated the law," Durbin said.