Shortly after Robert Mueller was appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to head up the Trump-Russia investigation, he was "drawn into a tense standoff" between Rosenstein and then-acting FBI director Andrew McCabe over exactly who would handle the probe, according to the Washington Post.
McCabe effectively tried to strong-arm the case away from Rosenstein and failed miserably.
When the confrontation occured in mid-may of last year, relations between the FBI and DOJ were strained. Former FBI director James Comey had just been fired by Trump, which was met with McCabe hastily opening a criminal obstruction case that he would ostensibly control.
The previously unreported episode involving Mueller, Rosenstein and McCabe — which occurred within days of Mueller’s becoming special counsel — underscores the deep suspicion between senior law enforcement officials who were about to embark on a historic, criminal investigation of the president. -WaPo
McCabe wanted Rosenstein to recuse himself from this new probe, reasoning that if Trump obstructed justice, Rosenstein would have played a role in that. Rosenstein also authored the memo recommending Comey's firing, and signed off on spy warrants to surveil the Trump campaign during the 2016 US election.
The DOJ, meanwhile, expressed concern that McCabe may have acted recklessly by launching a new investigation so soon after Comey's firing - which might be interpreted as an act of anger or revenge. Rosenstein wanted McCabe to recuse himself, reasoning that photos of McCabe supporting his wife's state Senate campaign - after Hillary Clinton pal Terry McAuliffe reportedly funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to McCabe's run for office. This, according to Rosenstein meant that McCabe "could not be considered objective in a political probe," according to WaPo.
The most interesting detail I identified was why RR wanted McCabe recused. In the gap between Comey & Mueller, McCabe opened a criminal obstruction of justice case against @RealDonaldTrump! This also may explain a redaction in the Strzok/Page texts.— DawsonSField (@DawsonSField) October 11, 2018
Those texts show an effort to take advantage of the fact the McCabe is Acting Director to lock in REDACTED in a formal chargeable way. I've always suspected it was @GenFlynn or @jaredkushner. But this story shows an effort to lock in an obstruction of justice charge against Trump— DawsonSField (@DawsonSField) October 11, 2018
Ultimately, neither recused - while Mueller was appointed by Rosenstein to handle th Trump probe, and given wide latitude over the investigation. The Trump-Russia investigation was essentially yanked from McCabe and handed to Mueller.
In the end, neither Rosenstein nor McCabe recused from the Russia investigation, and it was clear in that meeting and after that Mueller would have a great degree of independence and control over his investigation, including management of Justice Department prosecutors and FBI agents detailed to him. Mueller previously served as FBI director from 2001 to 2013. -WaPo
I think it is clear that the entire purpose of appointing Mueller was to take the case from McCabe. He clearly suspected that too & attacked RR to try & force his recusal. He failed. But McCabe clearly wanted RR off this case so he could run it.— DawsonSField (@DawsonSField) October 11, 2018
It's clear who won the battle; Rosenstein is still the Deputy AG, while McCabe was fired for authorizing self-serving leaks to the media regarding his handling of the Clinton email "matter."
Rosenstein skipped out on an appearance in front of the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday to discuss reports that he wanted to secretly record President Trump and then use the recordings to remove him from office under the 25th Amendment. Perhaps it's because the FBI's former top attorney, James Baker, reportedly told Congressional investigators that Rosenstein wasn't joking.