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Alex Brandon / AP

Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein told senators Tuesday that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has "full independence" to investigate the ongoing Russia probe, although he can be fired at any time.

Rosenstein said there was "no basis" for firing Mueller, and he would only dismiss him if there was "good cause" — even if Trump ordered him to do so. Rosenstein later confirmed he is the only person who could fire Mueller, but noted there was "no secret plan" to remove him, or at least, "no secret plan that involves me."

The quote: "I appointed him. I stand by that decision... I am going to defend the integrity of that investigation."

Live updates from the hearing:

  • If you were fired, who would appoint your replacement? "The president," said Rosenstein. He later clarified that he could be fired "without cause" at any time, essentially confirming that there is a higher bar to fire the special prosecutor than the deputy attorney general.
  • Why are you answering the panel's questions instead of Sessions? Rosenstein said he knows what is going on in the Russia investigation, whereas Sessions, who has been recused from the probe, does not. "Nothing gets to the attorney general about the matters he's recused from unless they come through my office."
  • Was it appropriate for Sessions to recommend James Comey's firing given his recusal? Rosenstein said he wouldn't comment.
  • Do you have a time estimate for the Russia investigation? "I regret that I do not," said Rosenstein, but said he understands it needs to be done "expeditiously."

Go deeper

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

Updated 8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

John Weaver, Lincoln Project co-founder, acknowledges “inappropriate” messages

John Weaver aboard John McCain's campaign plane in February 2000. Photo: Robert Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

John Weaver, a veteran Republican operative who co-founded the Lincoln Project, declared in a statement to Axios on Friday that he sent “inappropriate,” sexually charged messages to multiple men.

  • “To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry. They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you,” Weaver said.
  • “The truth is that I'm gay,” he added. “And that I have a wife and two kids who I love. My inability to reconcile those two truths has led to this agonizing place.”

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