Rus­sia probe forges ahead

Deputy AG says Mueller can look into any crimes un­cov­ered in in­quiry.

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - KELSEY SNELL In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was contributed by John Wagner of The Wash­ing­ton Post, and by Bill Al­li­son of Bloomberg News.

Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Rod Rosen­stein said Sun­day that the ex­pand­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion is con­tin­u­ing apace, even as Pres­i­dent Trump dis­missed the probe as “a to­tal fab­ri­ca­tion.”

Rosen­stein said spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller can in­ves­ti­gate any crimes that he might dis­cover within the scope of his probe, but the deputy at­tor­ney gen­eral would not dis­cuss which in­di­vid­u­als are the sub­ject of their in­quiry. The in­ter­view comes days after Trump said he be­lieves it would be in­ap­pro­pri­ate for Mueller to dig into Trump fam­ily fi­nances.

“The spe­cial coun­sel is sub­ject to the rules and reg­u­la­tions of the Depart­ment of Jus­tice, and we don’t en­gage in fish­ing ex­pe­di­tions,” Rosen­stein said when asked about the probe in an in­ter­view on Fox News Sun­day.

Rosen­stein de­clined to com­ment on re­ports that Mueller is us­ing a grand jury in a court in Wash­ing­ton to aid in his in­ves­ti­ga­tion but he said that such a step is a rou­tine part of “many in­ves­ti­ga­tions.”

“It’s an ap­pro­pri­ate way to gather doc­u­ments, some­times to bring wit­nesses in, to make sure that you get their full tes­ti­mony,” Rosen­stein said. “It’s just a tool that we use like any other tool in the course of our in­ves­ti­ga­tions.”

Trump and his in­ner cir­cle have re­peat­edly dis­missed the in­ves­ti­ga­tion amid fre­quent re­ports that Mueller and his team are dig­ging into broader de­tails on the fi­nan­cial deal­ings of mem­bers of Trump’s cam­paign team. Se­nior White House coun­selor Kellyanne Con­way called the probe a “fab­ri­ca­tion” in an in­ter­view on ABC’s This Week. Trump called it “the to­tally madeup Rus­sia story” in a cam­paign-style speech he de­liv­ered Thurs­day in West Vir­ginia.

The at­tacks have raised con­cerns among Democrats and some Repub­li­cans that Trump may be look­ing for ways to un­der­mine the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Those fears led Sens. Thom Til­lis, R-N.C., and Christo­pher Coons, D-Del., to pro­pose leg­is­la­tion that would give a judge the abil­ity to re­view any de­ci­sion by the pres­i­dent to fire Muller.

Til­lis said Sun­day that he does not agree that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is a witch hunt and said the bill is in­tended to bol­ster the in­de­pen­dence of the Jus­tice Depart­ment.

“We’ll let the facts lead us to whether or not it was a hoax or a dis­trac­tion,” Til­lis said dur­ing a This Week in­ter­view. “But we are where we are, and I want to see this in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­cluded so that we can get on to do­ing the good work the pres­i­dent has al­ready started with reg­u­la­tory re­form, health care and tax re­form.”

Sen. Tom Cot­ton, R-Ark., said on CBS’ Face the Na­tion that he doesn’t ex­pect the pro­posal from Til­lis and Coons to be­come law.

He added, though, that “for decades, Congress has ceded too much author­ity to the ex­ec­u­tive branch. And we should ex­er­cise our con­sti­tu­tional re­spon­si­bil­i­ties se­ri­ously and with vigor.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, Calif., the rank­ing Demo­crat on the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, noted that it has been more than a year since for­mer FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey started a coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sia’s med­dling in the 2016 elec­tion.

“That means one year later, rather than turn­ing that in­ves­ti­ga­tion off, rather than con­clud­ing ‘We’ve looked at this for a year; there’s re­ally noth­ing to see here,’ as the pres­i­dent would claim, in­stead … it’s mov­ing into a new phase,” Schiff said dur­ing an ap­pear­ance on CNN’s State of the Union. “That wouldn’t be tak­ing place if there was re­ally no ev­i­dence, no ev­i­den­tiary ba­sis to move for­ward.”

He said an ad­di­tional rea­son to con­tinue in­ves­ti­gat­ing was the disclosure of the June 2016 meet­ing of Don­ald Trump Jr., cam­paign of­fi­cials and a Rus­sian lawyer, which was set up with the ad­ver­tised pur­pose of shar­ing dam­ag­ing in­for­ma­tion on Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Hil­lary Clin­ton.

“And now you add on the layer of the pres­i­dent, if these al­le­ga­tions are true, help­ing to fab­ri­cate a false state­ment about what that meet­ing was about,” Schiff said, re­fer­ring to the White House’s ac­knowl­edg­ment that Trump weighed in on an ini­tial state­ment is­sued by Trump Jr. about the meet­ing that did not men­tion its pre­text.

Schiff also said the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee and Mueller are look­ing at some of the same is­sues re­lated to for­mer na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Michael Flynn, in­clud­ing pay­ments Flynn al­legedly re­ceived from Tur­key dur­ing the fi­nal months of the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign and from RT, a Rus­sian gov­ern­ment-backed tele­vi­sion net­work.

Dur­ing an ap­pear­ance on the same CNN pro­gram, Repub­li­can Gov. Chris Christie, of New Jersey, an ally of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, down­played the sig­nif­i­cance of a D.C. grand jury be­ing im­pan­eled by Mueller.

“That’s a typ­i­cal thing to be done in any in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” said Christie, a for­mer fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor.

Asked about Trump’s con­cerns that Mueller’s probe could ex­pand into fi­nan­cial deal­ings of Trump un­re­lated to Rus­sia, Christie said that some some­times spe­cial coun­sels feel “the need to pro­duce some­thing in re­turn for their ap­point­ment.”

But he called Mueller “a good man” and said he trusts he will not go on a “fish­ing ex­pe­di­tion.”

Rosen­stein

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