Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein warns about anonymous sources

Last Updated Jun 16, 2017 11:09 AM EDT

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein warned the public Thursday night about stories attributed to anonymous sources.

"Americans should exercise caution before accepting as true any stories attributed to anonymous 'officials,' particularly when they do not identify the country – let alone the branch or agency of government – with which the alleged sources supposedly are affiliated," Rosenstein said in a brief statement released by the Justice Department.

"Americans should be skeptical about anonymous allegations. The Department of Justice has a long-established policy to neither confirm nor deny such allegations."

It's unclear why Rosenstein issued the warning or if anyone prompted him to do so. Administration officials often demand anonymity in stories. 

Although Rosenstein's statement did not reference a specific story, it was released a few hours after the Washington Post published a story stating that the special counsel is investigating the business dealings of Mr. Trump's son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner. That story relied on "U.S. officials familiar with the matter."  

Rosenstein wrote a memo to the president that implicitly recommended that Comey be terminated as FBI director. About a week after Comey was fired last month, however, Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a special counsel at the Justice Department to oversee the federal investigation into Russia's efforts to meddle in the 2016 U.S. election. Rosenstein is in charge of hiring and firing because Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia probe.

Rosenstein testified at a Senate hearing earlier this week that he sees no reason to fire Mueller. His comment came after a friend of President Trump's, Newmax CEO Chris Ruddy, said Monday that the president is considering firing the special counsel.

After the statement was released, on Friday morning, Mr. Trump confirmed on Twitter that he's being investigated for firing James Comey as FBI director, and appeared to attack Rosenstein who advised the president to dismiss Comey.

While some have questioned whether Rosenstein could recuse himself from oversight in the Russia investigation, a spokesperson for the Justice Department told CBS News' Paula Reid that there have been no developments on this front. The deputy attorney general has previously told the AP and Congress he may have to step aside, and he confirmed he has discussed this possibility with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.  

Two weeks ago, Rosenstein told the AP in an interview that he would recuse himself from any oversight of special counsel Robert Mueller if he were to become a subject of Mueller's investigation.    

Were he to recuse himself, Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, the number three person at the Justice Department, would take over the investigation. 

  • Rebecca Shabad

    Rebecca Shabad is a video reporter for CBS News Digital.