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RI senator in favor of independent Russia probe

There will be a clean and non-political investigation into Russia’s involvement with the last presidential election, Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse told reporters in Providence on Friday, May 19, 2017. (WJAR)

There will be a clean and non-political investigation into Russia’s involvement with the last presidential election, Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse told reporters in Providence on Friday.

Whitehouse, along with other senators, were briefed by the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein a day prior.

“He is bending over backwards to make sure Bob Mueller has as much scope as possible to run the investigation his way,” Whitehouse said.

Mueller is the former FBI director named by Rosenstein as special counsel.

Whitehouse said Rosenstein is taking care to make sure there is no conflict between ongoing Congressional investigations and the probe independent probe.

“People can go forward in their lanes knowing they aren’t going to compromise other efforts,” the senator said of the proposed coordination.

In response to a question about Congressmen and women calling for Trump’s impeachment if obstruction charges prove to be true, Whitehouse said that senators are not repeating that kind of talk.

“On our side, within the caucus, among Republican friends, there’s no conversation of that, yet,” he said.

Whitehouse was also asked about reports of stock trading in pharmaceutical companies by him and his wife, which occurred while legislation affecting the industry was under consideration. He said there’s no conflict, as he does not communicate with his stockbroker about trades.

Whitehouse also said Trump’s business entanglements pose a real problem. It’s not just that there’s a lack of separation between the president’s business and his job, but that the lack of a firewall between the two opens up opportunities for attacks.

“In addition to whatever his underlying business to government problems are, there’s also the problem of handling that potential conflict area so badly that you end up constantly snarled in disputes and litigation, and then again makes it hard to go about being the President of the United States,” Whitehouse said.

Whitehouse went on to say that he doesn't think former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman should be the next FBI director.

He said it's his "strong opinion" that the next FBI director should have considerable federal law enforcement experience and shouldn't be a politician or "even a recently recovering one like Joe Lieberman." He said Lieberman is a "great guy, but not this job, not now."

Meanwhile, Trump on Thursday said he was "very close" to naming someone to replace FBI Director James Comey, whom he fired on May 9. He has said Lieberman was among his top choices.

The president did not announce his pick before leaving Friday on his first foreign trip. He'd previously said he might announce his nominee before leaving.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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