Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein privately restricted the focus of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s efforts to get President Trump elected in 2016, according to a New York Times report that quotes former Justice Department and FBI officials, leaving questions open about the president’s ties to Russia as the country again attempts to tip an election in his favor.
Mueller, a former FBI director who served as special advocate for a two-year investigation into Russian electoral interference and possible obstruction of justice by the Trump campaign, confirmed at a judicial committee meeting in the July 2019 House that his report did not exonerate Trump “for the acts he allegedly committed” and that he was not charged because, in the opinion of the Office of the Legal Counsel, criminal prosecution would not cannot be brought against a sitting president.
The report led to indictments of several Trump associates, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former fixer Michael Cohen, but according to the Time, while Rosenstein told lawmakers Mueller would examine “any connection” between Russia and the Trump campaign, he instead told the special council to focus on criminal misconduct regarding interference in the 2016 presidential election.
“Do your job and shut it down,” Rosenstein reportedly told Mueller, according to a book by journalist Jeffrey Toobin, with McCabe telling the Time that limiting attention to crime runs counter to a national security investigation, including potentially compromised financial relationships.
While Trump and his allies have repeatedly called the Russian investigation a hoax, a report by the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee released on August 18 confirmed that Russian President Vladimir Putin directly ordered the hacking of Democratic Party servers and that Trump’s campaign officials were seeking advance notice of the WikiLeaks releases provided by Russia via Roger Stone, whose report confirmed Trump was aware despite the president’s written responses to Mueller saying otherwise.
Stone was found guilty on seven counts stemming from the Mueller investigation, but Trump, a longtime friend, commuted Stone’s 40-month prison sentence in July, with the White House continuing to qualify the investigation of “Russian hoax”.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence reaffirmed in early August that Russia is once again trying to influence the presidential election in Trump’s favor, but on Saturday all in-person briefings with Congress regarding election security were called off , alarming members of both parties.
“We opened this case in May 2017 because we had information indicating that a threat to national security might exist, in particular a counterintelligence threat involving the president and Russia,” the acting director said. office at the time, Andrew McCabe. Time. “I expected that this issue and related issues would be fully considered by the team of special advocates. If a decision were made not to investigate these matters, I am surprised and disappointed. I did not know. “
In 2018, while flanked by Putin at a Helsinki summit, Trump challenged his own intelligence community over his findings of Russian election interference. “President Putin says it’s not Russia. I see no reason why this would be the case. “
The Trump administration has been accused of politicizing several different agencies of the federal government, in particular the Department of Justice. Attorney General William Barr drew criticism earlier this year for his unprecedented decision to drop charges against Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during the Mueller’s investigation. While a federal court of appeals committee ruled in favor of dropping the case in a split decision, the majority of Washington DC court of appeals members voted to dismiss of the committee’s decision and to continue discussions on Barr’s decision.