In his opening statement to the Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr Rosenstein explained how he came to appoint Robert Mueller to lead the Russia investigation concerning the actions of the Trump campaign and administration.
He said that he appointed Mr Mueller not just because then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself, but also because James Comey was fired as FBI director and he did not have confidence in his replacement.
He said he didn’t select Andrew McCabe to lead the probe because he was “concerned that the public would not have confidence in the investigation and that the acting FBI director was not the right person to lead it.”
“I decided that appointing a special counsel was the best way to complete the investigation appropriately and promote public confidence in its conclusions,” Mr Rosenstein said.
Further, Mr Rosenstein described Mr McCabe as "not fully candid" with him and said he "certainly wasn't forthcoming" about the Russia probe.
Specifically, he said that Mr McCabe had not revealed to him Mr Comey's memo from his interviews with Donald Trump and the FBI's suspicions about the president until after Mr McCabe took over as acting director of the agency.
In a blistering response, Mr McCabe released a statement, refuting the claims.
“Mr Rosenstein’s claims to have been misled by me, or anyone from the FBI, regarding our concerns about President Trump and the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russia are completely false,” he said. “Mr Rosenstein approved of, and suggested ways to enhance, our investigation of the President. Further, I personally briefed Mr Rosenstein on Jim Comey’s memos describing his interactions with the president mere days after Mr Rosenstein wrote the memo firing Jim Comey.”
“Mr Rosenstein’s testimony is completely at odds with the factual record. It looks to be yet another sad attempt by the President and his men to rewrite the history of their actions in 2017. They have found in Mr Rosenstein — then and now — a willing accessory in that effort,” Mr McCabe concluded.
Mr McCabe has been an outspoken critic of the president and his administration since his firing from the FBI two days before his expected retirement in 2018.
When promoting a book in 2019 he posited that Donald Trump could be a Russian asset; that Mr Rosenstein raised the idea of wearing a wire to record the president; and that there had been high level discussions about invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Mr Trump from office.