CNN cut away from a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday morning, seconds after Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) raised concerns that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had hired a former Clinton Foundation attorney to assist with the probe into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Graham was questioning Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who was sitting in for Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Democrats have long accused the Trump campaign of colluding with Russia, though no evidence has emerged. There is also speculation that Special Counsel Mueller will probe allegations of obstruction of justice against President Donald Trump.
Earlier this week, reports emerged that Mueller had hired attorneys for his investigative team who had donated to Hillary Clinton in the past, and one in particular who had represented the Clinton Foundation in its effort to block Freedom of Information Act requests for e-mails on Clinton’s private server.
Graham: Is giving political donations a reason to disqualify somebody for serving in the Special Counsel’s office?
Rosenstein: No, Senator, it is not a disqualification. It is not.
Graham: As a matter of fact, many states, the judges and prosecutors are actually elected. Donations are a part of that system, is that correct?
Rosenstein: Yes, that’s true.
Graham: Would it be a disqualification for somebody in the Special Counsel’s office who had represented Mrs. Clinton in the past to serve?
Rosenstein: You know, Senator, it would depend on facts and circumstances. As a general matter, I think the answer is no.
Graham: Isn’t that much closer to a conflict of interest?
Rosenstein: I don’t want to answer a hypothetical, Senator. Everybody needs to make a determination based on the facts and circumstances of the individual case.
Graham: How would you get it before the Special Counsel? What process could a member of the Senate use to inform the Special Counsel that you’d have a concern about hiring someone that represented Clinton?
Rosenstein: We have a process within the Department of Justice, Senator, so I would encourage you, if you have those concerns, to raise them with [former] Director Mueller or to raise them with me, and I’ll make sure —
Graham: So should I do it to you or to him?
Rosenstein: Well, you could do it to both.
Graham: Okay. That’s fair enough.
Rosenstein: And we have career —
Graham: And I don’t know if I’ll do that, but I’ve read some things that were — I don’t think donations are disqualifying at all, but if you represented the Clinton Foundation or Clinton herself, that would be disturbing to me, but I’ll take care of that.
CNN cut back to the studio shortly after that, while Graham was still questioning Rosenstein.
Earlier, Graham had asked Rosenstein whether there was “any reason, for cause, to fire Mr. Mueller.” Rosenstein had said he did not know of any reason.