Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said Trump firing Rosenstein is one step removed from firing special counsel Bob Mueller in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Monday. Schiff said if Rosenstein is fired he becomes a witness in any investigation that special counsel Robert Mueller is involved with.
"The other consideration here is, if the president fires Rod Rosenstein, it is exhibit B in the obstruction of justice case against him, exhibit A being the firing of James Comey. He would have fired the FBI director in charge of the investigation. He would have fired the attorney general representative in charge of the investigation," Schiff said.
"Shame on the Congress of the United States if we allow that to happen," he said. "I think the firing of Rod Rosenstein is one step removed and not far removed from the firing of Bob Mueller, and we need to protect that investigation."
The rule of law is "hanging by the balance," according to Schiff.
"So, the rule of law is hanging by the balance here, and I think all of this means that Congress needs to take up legislation in its last week or weeks to protect Bob Mueller," the Congressman said.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN: Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
Let's get to some of the substantive issues.
You're urging Rosenstein to force President Trump to either fire him, rather than resign. Why do you think that would help protect the overall Mueller investigation?
SCHIFF: Well, because, if he does resign, if he's somehow cajoled into resigning, then the president can slot someone into that position under the Vacancies Act that could control the Mueller investigation.
And the president has made it very clear he wants his own Roy Cohn to do his business, never mind the interest of justice. He wants someone completely loyal to him, not the Constitution. So there's no reason why Rod Rosenstein should resign.
And I think that if the president is intent on obstructing justice, then Rod Rosenstein should say, I'm going to protect the investigation, you do what you need to do, and if you need to fire me, you fire me, but I'm going to uphold the rule of law.
And I think that's what the Constitution requires.
BLITZER: Because it makes a very significant difference, as you point out, whether or not the president fires him or whether or not Rod Rosenstein resigns, in terms of a successor, someone who oversees the Mueller probe.
What does it tell you that the president is still weighing this decision?
SCHIFF: Well, I wouldn't be a bit surprised if over the weekend the president was stewing on this, as he usually does, and growing more angry.
You know, you can say a lot of things about Rod Rosenstein. I have never found him to be paranoid. If he went to the White House today thinking he was going to be fired, he probably had very good reason to believe that that was the case.
But I think, also, Wolf, the other consideration here is, if the president fires Rod Rosenstein, it is exhibit B in the obstruction of justice case against him, exhibit A being the firing of James Comey. He would have fired the FBI director in charge of the investigation. He would have fired the attorney general representative in charge of the investigation.
And, of course, it would be abundantly clear why. Jay Sekulow removed all doubt this morning when he said, if Rosenstein is pushed out, that should bring about at least a temporary halt to the Mueller investigation. Of course, they want to make that halt permanent.
So, the rule of law is hanging by the balance here, and I think all of this means that Congress needs to take up legislation in its last week or weeks to protect Bob Mueller.
Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan can no longer make any credible claim that the Mueller investigation is anything but at risk. They need to do their job. They need to understand that our role is as a check and balance and a defender of our democracy, and right now they're completely falling down on the job.
BLITZER: If Rosenstein is fired, Congressman, do you think potentially he could be a witness in any investigation that Mueller and his team are engaged in as far as obstruction of justice is concerned?
If, in these private conversations with the president where the president is outlying his grievances against the deputy attorney general, the president is essentially giving evidence of why he may be motivated to fire Rod Rosenstein -- it is not unlike the evidence the president gave when he talked to Lester Holt and said that he had Russia on his mind when he decided to fire James Comey.
It is certainly more than possible. And, indeed, Rod Rosenstein may have more information about the firing of James Comey. So, I think all of these things will be pertinent to the Mueller investigation.
BLITZER: What do you make of Sean Hannity's warning to President Trump not to fire Rosenstein because it might be a -- quote -- "setup"?
SCHIFF: Well, it is difficult to say. You have got on the one hand Sean Hannity making that argument. You have got other FOX News hosts making exactly the opposite argument.
This story, I think, certainly added fuel to the FOX heads that have been calling for Rod Rosenstein's firing. Whether that was part of a deliberate campaign by these FOX voices, along with the president's allies in Congress, I don't know.
But one thing is abundantly clear. And that is the Trump legal defense team, the president's allies in Congress, the Gowdys and the Nunes as the Meadows, as well as most of these FOX sycophants, have all been calling for Rod Rosenstein to go, in the hope that someone else can be put in that place who can kneecap Bob Mueller.
And shame on the Congress of the United States if we allow that to happen. I think the firing of Rod Rosenstein is one step removed and not far removed from the firing of Bob Mueller, and we need to protect that investigation.
BLITZER: Do you believe the whole Russia investigation right now, Congressman, is in peril, in peril, as we speak?
SCHIFF: Well, I do.
And I think what probably precipitated all of this, what precipitated the president's order to declassify information that could risk sources and methods with precipitating this effort, this campaign against Rod Rosenstein right now may very well be the fact that Paul Manafort pled guilty and agreed to cooperate.
That upped the ante tremendously, and all of this may be the president feeling cornered and lashing out and the president's allies feeling embattled and fighting back. But that puts the rule of law, let alone the Mueller investigation, in great risk.
I will add to that these -- the speculation, based on the comments of the attorney general at that conference, that his head may be on the chopping block as well. What made that possible, Wolf, was two prominent Republican senators saying that, as long as the president was willing to wait until after the midterms, when they wouldn't pay a political price for it, they would help him find a new attorney general.
Now, this I think so undermines our democracy, because the reason why he wants to get rid of Jeff Sessions isn't a disagreement on criminal justice reform or disenfranchisement of minority voters. The president is perfectly happy with Jeff Sessions there.
No, this is about the president dissatisfied with the attorney general because he won't make a criminal case go away that may implicate him and he won't persecute the president's rivals. And for leading members of the Congress to say that's OK directly undermines the system of checks and balances.
BLITZER: Congressman Adam Schiff, thanks, as usual, for joining us.
Representative Adam Schiff: "A Slow-Moving Saturday Night Massacre"
Schiff warns about Trump's ongoing efforts to sabotage the Mueller probe following reports that Rod Rosenstein was about to be fired: