NASHVILLE — U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said today he respects Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's decision to appoint former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to lead the probe into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion between President Donald Trump's campaign and Russia.
"I respect Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein's decision to appoint a special counsel and appreciate the briefing he provided to members of the Senate today," said Corker, who along with other senators heard from Rosenstein earlier this afternoon.
"Robert Mueller is a widely respected law enforcement professional, and I trust that under his leadership the investigation will be conducted in an independent and expeditious manner," Corker said. "I also expect the Senate Intelligence Committee to continue its investigation."
The Tennessee senator did not elaborate further on Rosenstein's briefing of senators. On Wednesday, Corker, a former Chattanooga mayor, simply tweeted "I look forward to hearing from Deputy AG Rosenstein about his decision to appoint a special counsel when he briefs the Senate tomorrow.
But he drew headlines earlier in the week when he told Washington-based reporters that the spate of negative stories regarding Trump and intelligence had put the White House in a "downward spiral."
"They are in a downward spiral right now and have got to figure out a way to come to grips with all that's happening," Corker said. "You know the shame of it is there's a really good national security team in place, there's good productive things that are underway through them, and through others. But the chaos that is being created by the lack of discipline is creating an environment that I think — it creates a worrisome environment."
Last week, James Mackler, an attorney and former prosecutor running for Tennessee Democrats' 2018 U.S. Senate nomination, chastised Corker in not calling for a special prosecutor at that time.
Prior to Corker's comments this afternoon, Mackler issued another statement in which he called Rosenstein's "appointing a special prosecutor ... an important first step in pursuing an independent investigation into the extent of Russia's influence."
On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., weighed in on Rosenstein's decision to name Mueller in what for GOP lawmakers is a sensitive matter involving a Republican president.
"During his service as FBI Director for both President Bush and President Obama, Robert Mueller earned a reputation for independence and integrity, which are exactly the qualities needed to pursue the Russia investigation to its conclusion," Alexander said.
Alexander likewise said the bipartisan U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence "should also continue its investigation and that should include a public hearing with former FBI Director James Comey sooner rather than later."
Last week, Trump generated a firestorm of criticism by firing FBI Director James Comey, who was leading the Russia investigation. Trump aides initially pointed to a memo written by Rosenstein that had been critical of a number of Comey actions prior to Trump coming into office.
But the president later told NBC News came to the decision to oust Comey after thinking about how "this Russia thing ... is a made up story."
On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that when Trump and Comey met earlier in the White House, the president brought up the investigation into former Trump national security advisor Michael T. Flynn, who had resigned over his work for Turkey.
Comey had written a memo after the meeting, The Times reported, in which Comey had quoted the president saying, "I hope you can let this go."