Trump nominee to Justice Department post says he will support Russia probe

WASHINGTON, Oct 4 (Reuters) - President Donald Trump’s nominee to head the U.S. Justice Department’s national security division promised on Wednesday to support Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election.

John Demers, an attorney for Boeing Co. who worked at the Justice Department under President George W. Bush, also told lawmakers during his confirmation hearing that he will make sure he does not pass any intelligence from the Mueller probe to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is recused.

“I am not aware exactly of what my role will be in that investigation...I am happy to support the investigation in any way that the special counsel needs, and I will pledge to you that I will not do anything illegal or inappropriate,” Demers told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“I wouldn’t do anything to cause (Sessions) to violate his recusal.”

Sessions recused himself from overseeing or participating in the Russia investigation earlier this year, after news reports came out saying he failed to disclose a prior meeting with Russia’s ambassador. Sessions denied wrongdoing but said he would recuse himself based on the work he did for Trump’s campaign.

His decision left the department’s No. 2 official, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, in charge of the Russia probe. Rosenstein subsequently appointed Mueller.

Demers’ pledge to maintain a firewall between Mueller’s team and Sessions’ office is important in light of Trump’s pattern of violating boundaries that are supposed to exist between the department and the White House with his direct outreach to prosecutors and law enforcement officials.

Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey in May, after Comey said Trump had tried to pressure him to drop the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Trump later admitted in a television interview he had fired Comey because of “this Russia thing.”

Sessions’ recusal from the Russia probe infuriated Trump, who lashed out against him publicly because it helped pave the way for Rosenstein’s appointment of Mueller.

Demers on Wednesday told lawmakers he fully accepts the findings of a January report compiled by U.S. intelligence agencies that concluded Russia had interfered in the 2016 election and tried to tilt it in Trump’s favor - a finding Trump has often questioned.

“I have no reason to doubt what they concluded in that report,” he said. (Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)