WASHINGTON (dpa-AFX) - Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has defended the memo he wrote that the White House initially cited as a justification for the firing of former FBI Director James Comey.
In a closed-door meeting with members of the House on Friday, Rosenstein stood by the memo but suggested President Donald Trump had informed him of the desire to dismiss Comey before it was written.
Rosenstein said the memo was 'not a statement of reasons to justify a for-cause termination' but added, 'I wrote it. I believe it. I stand by it.'
The memo largely focused on criticism of Comey's handling of the investigation of Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while Secretary of State.
Rosenstein claimed Comey's announcement last July that he was not recommending criminal charges against Clinton 'explicitly usurped the role of the attorney general, the deputy attorney general and the entire Department of Justice.'
'It violated deeply engrained rules and traditions; and it guaranteed that some people would accuse the FBI of interfering in the election,' he added.
Several administration officials cited the memo as the reason for Comey's firing, although Trump later revealed he had been planning to fire Comey even before receiving the recommendation and intended to dismiss the FBI Director regardless.
House members who attended the briefing told CNN that Rosenstein was otherwise 'very guarded' and 'frustratingly cautious.'
Rosenstein reportedly refused to answer many questions about the investigation of Russian meddling in the presidential election, citing his recent appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel.
'It's clear he just wanted to defer to Mueller on everything tough,' one Democratic lawmaker inside the room told CNN.
However, lawmakers said Rosenstein made clear that Mueller has broad and wide-ranging authority to pursue the investigation wherever it leads.
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