Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein interviewed over FBI ex-director's firing: WSJ

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office has interviewed U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about President Donald Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

Citing unnamed people familiar with the investigation, the Journal said the interview occurred in June or July. Mueller is looking into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 elections, possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and whether Trump may have obstructed justice by firing Comey in May.

Mueller, himself a former FBI director, ultimately reports to Rosenstein because Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from the probe.

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Rod Rosenstein through the years
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 10: U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein speaks during a news conference in Washington D.C. Tuesday, October 10, 2006. Rosenstein and Deputy U.S. Attorney General Paul McNulty announced the formation of a National Procurement Fraud Task Force, an effort aimed at the detection, prevention and prosecution of procurement fraud associated with increased contracting activity for national security programs. (Photo by Carol T. Powers/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 10: Deputy U.S. Attorney General Paul McNulty, center, speaks during a news conference with Alice Fisher, head of the criminal division of the U.S. Department of Justice, left, and U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein, during a news conference in Washington D.C. Tuesday, October 10, 2006. McNulty announced the formation of a National Procurement Fraud Task Force, an effort aimed at the detection, prevention and prosecution of procurement fraud associated with increased contracting activity for national security programs. (Photo by Carol T. Powers/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
SLUG: me/hornsby DATE: August 22, 2006 CREDIT: Ricky Carioti / TWP. United States Federal Courthouse in Greenbelt, Md. Federal prosecutors announce the indictment of former Prince George's County school superintendent Andre Hornsby. United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein, center, flanked by Francis Turner, left, of the United States Department of the Treasury and Assistant United States Attorney Michael Pauze announce the 16-count indictment of former Prince George's County Schools Superintendent Andre Hornsby during a press conference at federal court in Greenbelt on Tuesday. (Photo by Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post/Getty Images)
U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein talks about the sentencing of Thomas Bromwell Sr. and Mary Patricia Bromwell following their appearance in federal court in Baltimore, Maryland, Friday, November 16, 2007. (Photo by Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun/MCT via Getty Images)
GREENBELT, MD JUNE 30:United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein talked with reporters after the Guilty plea of Prince Georges County Councilwoman Leslie Johnson the U.S. District Court on June 30, 2011 in Greenbelt, MD. To Rosenstein's left is Acting Special Agent in Charge Jeannine A. Hammett of the Internal Revenue Service and to his right is Special Agent in Charge Richard A. McFeely of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. (Photo by Mark Gail/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - OCTOBER 24: Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein, on Friday, October 24, 2014 in Baltimore, Maryland. Rosenstein said Carl Lackl was scheduled to be a witness to the Larry Haynes murder but was killed when Patrick Byers plotted his murder from his jail cell. (Photo by Michel du Cille/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Rod Rosenstein, deputy attorney general nominee for U.S. President Donald Trump, listens during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, March 7, 2017. The confirmation hearing for Rosenstein began with Republicans and Democrats squaring off over who should lead probes into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and potential contacts between Moscow and Trumps campaign team. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Rod Rosenstein, deputy attorney general nominee for U.S. President Donald Trump, swears in to a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, March 7, 2017. The confirmation hearing for Rosenstein began with Republicans and Democrats squaring off over who should lead probes into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and potential contacts between Moscow and Trumps campaign team. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Rod Rosenstein, deputy attorney general nominee for U.S. President Donald Trump, sits during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, March 7, 2017. The confirmation hearing for Rosenstein began with Republicans and Democrats squaring off over who should lead probes into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and potential contacts between Moscow and Trumps campaign team. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 07: Deputy U.S. Attorney General nominee Rod Rosenstein arrives before the Senate Judiciary Committee for testimony March 7, 2017 in Washington, DC. During the hearing, Democratic senators pressed Rosenstein to appoint a special prosecutor in an ongoing federal inquiry into Russian influence in the U.S. presidential election. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Rod Rosenstein, nominee to be Deputy Attorney General, testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington March 7, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
Rod Rosenstein, nominee to be Deputy Attorney General, arrives to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington March 7, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
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The Journal said the handling of the interview "could be a sign that Mr. Mueller’s team doesn’t view Mr. Rosenstein as a central witness in its probe, as the deputy attorney general hasn’t withdrawn himself from overseeing it since that interview."

The paper quoted Ian Prior, a Justice Department spokesman, as saying: "As the deputy attorney general has said numerous times, if there comes a time when he needs to recuse, he will. However, nothing has changed."

A Justice Department spokeswoman and a representative for the special counsel both declined to comment to Reuters.

The Russian government denies any attempt to influence the election, and the Republican president has repeatedly denied any collusion, calling the investigations a "witch hunt."

(Reporting by Mohammad Zargham and Eric Beech; Editing by James Dalgleish)

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