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Lindsey Graham says Trump's AG pick committed to letting Mueller probe continue

Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein to depart DOJ

William Barr, President Trump's nominee to be the next attorney general, told Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham he would allow special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation to continue unabated, Graham said Wednesday. Barr's opinion of Mueller is "very high," Graham said.

"Their wives are in a Bible study together. I think they are best friends," Graham, the incoming chairman of the Judiciary Committee, told reporters after a meeting with Barr on Capitol Hill. "I think Mr. Mueller has been to two of his daughters weddings. So his opinion of Mr. Mueller is very very high in terms of ethics, character and professionalism."

Barr is visiting senators on Capitol Hill ahead of his confirmation hearings next week. Barr met with Graham and his predecessor, current Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, Wednesday morning. He is set to meet with GOP Sens. Ted Cruz, Ben Sasse and John Cornyn.

Democrats have been critical of Barr's nomination because of his skepticism about special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Barr wrote a memo in June critical of Mueller's potential investigation into obstruction of justice by Mr. Trump in firing former FBI Director James Comey. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called on Mr. Trump to rescind Barr's nomination Wednesday, claiming that Barr would not be able to objectively oversee the Mueller investigation.

However, Graham said after meeting with Barr Wednesday that he was not concerned that Barr would interfere with the Mueller investigation.

"I can assure you based on what I heard that he has a high opinion of Mr. Mueller, believes Mr. Mueller is doing a professional job… and has no reason for Mr. Mueller to stop doing his job and is committed to allowing Mr. Mueller to finish," Graham told reporters. He also said that Barr's memo was "his opinion of the slippery slope of obstruction of justice charges against a president who wants to terminate a political appointee."

Barr's meetings on Capitol Hill come after news broke that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is expected to resign from his post at the Justice Department. Rosenstein is planning to stay on for a time after Barr is expected to be confirmed. CBS News correspondent Paula Reid was told Rosenstein always conceived of the job as a two-year position and wants to ensure a smooth transition. But the timing is surprising.

It's unclear what Rosenstein's departure means for the special counsel investigation, which he oversaw after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself and until Matthew Whitaker was named acting attorney general. It was Rosenstein who appointed Mueller to be the special counsel. Barr will likely inherit oversight of the investigation, but that is not a guarantee. His previous criticism of the investigation is expected to be a central theme in his confirmation hearings which are set to take place on Jan. 15 and 16.

Alan He contributed reporting