WASHINGTON U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has privately acknowledged he may need to recuse himself from matters relating to the probe into Russia and last year's U.S. election, given that he could become a potential witness in the investigation, ABC News reported on Friday, citing unnamed sources.
ABC said Rosenstein, the No. 2 official at the Department of Justice, told Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand she would have authority over the probe if he were to step aside.
Rosenstein appointed special counsel Robert Mueller last month to investigate alleged Russian meddling in the presidential election and possible collusion by President Donald Trump's campaign, and has told lawmakers he would fire him only with good cause.
He is the department's lead official on the issue after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from any issues linked to the Russia probe.
Rosenstein was also the author of a memo recommending the dismissal of FBI Director James Comey, which the White House cited along with a memo from Sessions as the reason Trump fired Comey on May 9. Trump, a Republican, later said that he had the Russia matter in mind when he fired Comey.
The Democratic National Committee said on Friday it saw a need for Rosenstein to recuse himself, but it said control over the investigation should be given to Mueller and not another Trump appointee.
ABC's report comes as Trump said on Friday he is personally under investigation in the widening Russia probe, over Comey's firing.
According to ABC, Rosenstein made the comments about his possible recusal at a recent meeting with Brand but has yet to formally ask career attorneys at the department for their opinion on the issue.
At a Senate hearing earlier this week, Rosenstein declined to answer whether he would have a conflict of interest if he became a witness in the investigation but pledged to "do the right thing."
(Reporting by Susan Heavey and Tim Ahmann; Editing by David Alexander, Chizu Nomiyama and Frances Kerry)