Justice Dept. Official Defends Mueller as Republicans Try to Discredit Him

Mr. Rosenstein mounted a step-by-step defense of Mr. Mueller’s conduct. He noted that department rules prevented Mr. Mueller from taking political affiliation into consideration when hiring for career positions, and he distinguished between officials holding political views and making investigative decisions out of bias.

.. “We recognize we have employees with political opinions. And it’s our responsibility to make sure those opinions do not influence their actions,” Mr. Rosenstein said

.. “Based upon what I know, I believe Director Mueller is appropriately remaining in his scope and conducting himself appropriately, and in the event there is any credible allegation of misconduct by anybody on his staff, that he is taking appropriate action.”

.. If Mr. Trump were to try to fire Mr. Mueller based on any developments so far, the president would likely first have to fire or force the resignation of Mr. Rosenstein and then hunt for a replacement willing to carry out his orders, echoing Richard Nixon’s so-called Saturday Night Massacre during the Watergate scandal.

.. The campaign against the special counsel, at the very least, provides a rallying cry for the president’s supporters to counter the drumbeat of news about Russian interference in the election and possible links to the Trump campaign.

.. Moreover, the voices of doubt are no longer confined to the party’s far-right wing. They include Republican mainstays like Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Charles E. Grassley of Iowa.

.. The president’s own legal team also appears to be part of the campaign.