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WASHINGTON (CNN) - Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein offered full-throated support for special counsel Robert Mueller and defended his investigation into Russian election meddling as it weathers criticism in an interview with USA Today published Monday.

"The special counsel is not an unguided missile," Rosenstein told the newspaper. "I don't believe there is any justification at this point for terminating the special counsel."

Mueller has been in the crosshairs of President Donald Trump and Republican critics as his probe has unfolded and grown since beginning under Rosenstein's direction in May. The endorsement from Rosenstein, who has oversight of the probe given the recusal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions from matters related to the election, came after reports earlier in the year that Trump had tried to fire Mueller last summer.

Rosenstein also appeared unfazed by attacks by Trump against him and the wider integrity of the Justice Department, USA Today reported. Four sources told CNN in January that Trump had been venting about Rosenstein in private, and a Tea Party-aligned group spent six figures last month on an advertisement that slammed him as a "weak careerist." ...