Since the White House had ignored the department's legal advice, Comey, Mueller and several other officials made plans to resign. "There is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign".
"Based upon the unique circumstances, the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command", Mr Rosenstein said in a statement.
The newspaper also reported that another associate said the notes of the January dinner conversation contained very nuanced quotes from the president, and a high level of detail.
As the news broke, Burr told reporters: "I think this is a good decision. Everyone thinks so", he said when asked whether he ever thought he did something recently that merited criminal charges or impeachment.
"This trip combines so many different things and actors that the question is going to be what's the message that he wants to communicate when he's out there", said Lanhee Chen, who advised Republican Mitt Romney's presidential campaign in 2012 and Marco Rubio's in 2016.
But calls for the Russia probe to be placed in independent hands intensified this week following reports that Mr Trump urged Mr Comey to reel back its investigation of Michael Flynn, the national security advisor fired over concerns about his Russian contacts.
Brazilian President Says He Won't Resign Over Hush Money Allegations
The recordings were allegedly made by Joesley Batista, the owner of JBS - Brazil's largest producer and exporter of meat. Cunha was convicted this year of money laundering and corruption as part of the Operation Car Wash anticorruption probe.
"I hope you can let this go", Comey wrote, quoting Trump in the document, which CNN has not viewed but which was described by the sources.
Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) told reporters there should be a special counsel only "if" the committees in the Senate and House investigating Russian Federation "cannot get to answers".
The Senate Intelligence Committee also wants Comey to testify both publicly and in private. On Thursday he tweeted that the probe of Russian collusion was "the single greatest witch hunt" in US history. "With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign & Obama Administration, there was never a special counsel appointed!"
According to the Times, the White House has declined to comment on whether transition officials were aware of the Flynn investigation before Trump's inauguration.
Some doubt whether Trump, a businessman-turned politician who never held elective office before becoming president in January, is ready for a smooth presidential debut overseas.
"No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly", he said on Wednesday to the graduating class of the United States Coast Guard Academy.
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