Deputy at­tor­ney gen­eral’s role in Rus­sia probe de­bated.

Democrats want him to stay, Trump doesn’t Trump le­gal team: Pres­i­dent not un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY AN­DREA NO­BLE BY BRAD­FORD RICHARD­SON

Democrats have grown in­creas­ingly con­cerned that over­sight of the spe­cial coun­sel’s Rus­sia probe will be wrested away from Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Rod Rosen­stein — either through re­cusal or dis­missal.

Pres­i­dent Trump ap­peared to di­rect ire over the in­ves­ti­ga­tion at the deputy at­tor­ney gen­eral on Twit­ter last week, mean­while Mr. Rosen­stein has re­port­edly pri­vately dis­cussed the pos­si­bil­ity that he may need to re­cuse him­self from the mat­ter.

“I am be­ing in­ves­ti­gated for fir­ing the FBI Direc­tor by the man who told me to fire the FBI Direc­tor! Witch Hunt,” Mr. Trump tweeted Fri­day in an ap­par­ent ref­er­ence to Mr. Rosen­stein, who wrote the memo that rec­om­mended James B. Comey’s fir­ing.

That left Sen. Dianne Fe­in­stein, the rank­ing Demo­crat on the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, wor­ried about the pres­i­dent’s in­ten­tions.

“The mes­sage the pres­i­dent is send­ing through his tweets is that he be­lieves the rule of law doesn’t ap­ply to him and that any­one who thinks oth­er­wise will be fired,” Mrs. Fe­in­stein said. “If the pres­i­dent thinks he can fire Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Rosen­stein and re­place him with some­one who will shut down the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, he’s in for a rude awak­en­ing. Even his staunch­est sup­port­ers will balk at such a bla­tant ef­fort to sub­vert the law.”

But Mr. Rosen­stein, who made the de­ci­sion last month to ap­point Robert Mueller as the spe­cial coun­sel in­ves­ti­gat­ing Rus­sia’s med­dling in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, could po­ten­tially re­cuse him­self from over­sight of the mat­ter.

Cit­ing sources within the Jus­tice Depart­ment, ABC News re­ported Fri­day that Mr. Rosen­stein raised the pos­si­bil­ity of his own re­cusal with As­so­ciate At­tor­ney Gen­eral Rachel Brand. As the DOJ’s third-in-com­mand, Ms. Brand would be the next in line to as­sume over­sight of the spe­cial coun­sel.

The Jus­tice Depart­ment said Fri­day that Mr. Rosen­stein has not re­cused him­self from the probe.

“As the deputy at­tor­ney gen­eral has said nu­mer­ous times, if there comes a point when he needs to re­cuse, he will. How­ever, noth­ing has changed,” said DOJ

A mem­ber of Pres­i­dent Trump’s le­gal team dis­missed the no­tion that the pres­i­dent is be­ing per­son­ally in­ves­ti­gated in the Rus­sia-elec­tion prob­lem, de­spite what Mr. Trump him­self seemed to say on Twit­ter.

“Let me be clear: The pres­i­dent’s not un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” Jay Seku­low said Sun­day on CNN’s “State of the Union,” one of sev­eral Sun­day po­lit­i­caltalk shows on which he ap­peared. “As James Comey said in his tes­ti­mony that the pres­i­dent was not the tar­get of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion on three dif­fer­ent oc­ca­sions, the pres­i­dent is not a sub­ject or tar­get of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

Sev­eral me­dia out­lets re­ported last week that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion had ex­panded to in­clude whether Mr. Trump ob­structed jus­tice by fir­ing for­mer FBI direc­tor James B. Comey, who was head­ing the in­quiry when he was ter­mi­nated.

The pres­i­dent ap­peared to con­firm that report in a tweet on Fri­day. “I am be­ing in­ves­ti­gated for fir­ing the FBI Direc­tor by the man who told me to fire the FBI Direc­tor!” he wrote. “Witch Hunt.”

Mr. Seku­low said the tweet should not be in­ter­preted as con­fir­ma­tion that the pres­i­dent is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“That tweet was in re­sponse to a Wash­ing­ton Post story that ran with five un­named sources, with­out iden­ti­fy­ing the agen­cies they rep­re­sented, say­ing that the spe­cial coun­sel had broad­ened out his in­ves­ti­ga­tion to

spokesman Ian Prior.

Dis­cus­sion about a pos­si­ble re­cusal, how­ever, could in­di­cate a widen­ing of the scope of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“I’ve talked with Direc­tor Mueller about this,” Mr. Rosen­stein told The As­so­ci­ated Press ear­lier this month. “He’s go­ing to make the ap­pro­pri­ate de­ci­sions, and if any­thing that I did winds up be­ing rel­e­vant to his in­ves­ti­ga­tion then, as Direc­tor Mueller and I dis­cussed, if there’s a need from me to re­cuse, I will.”

Re­ports last week in­di­cated the probe has now stretched to in­clude in­quiries into the busi­ness deal­ings of Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and ad­viser Jared Kush­ner, as well as whether Mr. Trump tried to ob­struct the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions re­cused him­self from the Rus­sia in­clude the pres­i­dent,” he said. “We’ve had no in­di­ca­tion of that.”

Mr. Trump’s tweet Fri­day was not the first to cause con­fu­sion about the state of the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion and put his team on the de­fen­sive.

In a tweet af­ter Mr. Comey’s fir­ing, the pres­i­dent claimed to have taped con­ver­sa­tions with the for­mer FBI direc­tor and threat­ened to re­lease them. Asked when those tapes will be re­leased, Mr. Seku­low said it was up to the pres­i­dent.

“I think the pres­i­dent is go­ing to ad­dress that in the week ahead,” Mr. Seku­low said on CBS’s “Face the Na­tion.” “There was a lot of is­sues this past week.”

For­mer House Speaker Newt Gin­grich, a Trump ally, said the pres­i­dent’s tweets do not al­ways serve him well.

“Trump has a com­pul­sion to coun­ter­at­tack and is very pug­na­cious. I don’t think it serves him well,” Mr. Gin­grich said Sun­day on ABC’s “This Week.” “I don’t think that tweet helped him. But it’s al­most like, it’s who he’s been his whole life. He’s been a fighter his whole life.”

Mr. Gin­grich isn’t alone in that judg­ment.

Rep. Tom Cole, Ok­la­homa Repub­li­can, said Twit­ter is not the best medium to dis­cuss a topic as nu­anced as the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“I think the pres­i­dent can do some very good things with Twit­ter, he’s done some very good things with it,” Mr. Cole said Fri­day on MSNBC. “In terms of in­ves­ti­ga­tions, my ad­vice is

in­ves­ti­ga­tion in March, cit­ing his own ties to Pres­i­dent Trump’s cam­paign.

The Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee raised con­cern over the pas­sage of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion to another Trump ap­pointee if Mr. Rosen­stein were to re­cuse.

“Af­ter Trump’s re­peated at­tempts to en­list top law en­force­ment of­fi­cials to in­ter­fere in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, there is no rea­son to be­lieve that any­one within the ad­min­is­tra­tion could be ef­fec­tively in­su­lated from his in­flu­ence,” DNC spokesman Daniel Wes­sel said.

In­stead, the DNC said Mr. Mueller should be granted to­tal in­de­pen­dence and full con­trol over the probe.

The pres­i­dent’s Twit­ter com­ments came the morn­ing af­ter Mr. Rosen­stein is­sued a strange pub­lic state­ment that con­demned news sto­ries at­trib­uted to just to not com­ment on it.”

The con­fu­sion created by Mr. Trump’s tweet was ev­i­dent when the pres­i­dent’s own lawyer had trou­ble keep­ing the story straight Sun­day.

In an in­ter­view on “Fox News Sun­day,” Mr. Seku­low ini­tially de­nied that Mr. Trump was un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion, only to re­verse the claim later in the in­ter­view.

“So he’s be­ing in­ves­ti­gated for tak­ing the ac­tion that the at­tor­ney gen­eral and deputy at­tor­ney gen­eral rec­om­mended him to take by the agency who rec­om­mended the ter­mi­na­tion,” Mr. Seku­low said.

When Mr. Wal­lace called out the con­tra­dic­tion, Mr. Seku­low ac­cused the Fox News an­chor of “putting words” in his mouth.

“Let me be crys­tal clear so you com­pletely un­der­stand: We have not re­ceived nor are we aware of any in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the pres­i­dent of the United States,” Mr. Seku­low said. “Pe­riod.”

But Rep. Adam Schiff, the rank­ing Demo­crat on the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, said there’s enough “ev­i­dence” of col­lu­sion be­tween the Trump cam­paign and Rus­sia to war­rant an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“Well I think there is ev­i­dence,” Mr. Schiff said Sun­day on ABC’s “This Week.” “I can’t go into the par­tic­u­lars of our closed in­ves­ti­ga­tion. But I also think there is ev­i­dence of ob­struc­tion. But in both cases, I would say, whether there is some ev­i­dence doesn’t mean there is proof be­yond a rea­son­able doubt.”

anony­mous sources.

“Amer­i­cans should ex­er­cise cau­tion be­fore ac­cept­ing as true any sto­ries at­trib­uted to anony­mous ‘of­fi­cials,’ par­tic­u­larly when they do not iden­tify the coun­try — let alone the branch or agency of gov­ern­ment — with which the al­leged sources sup­pos­edly are af­fil­i­ated,” Mr. Rosen­stein said. “Amer­i­cans should be skep­ti­cal about anony­mous al­le­ga­tions. The Depart­ment of Jus­tice has a longestab­lished pol­icy to nei­ther con­firm nor deny such al­le­ga­tions.”

Jus­tice Depart­ment of­fi­cials did not pro­vide fur­ther con­text for the state­ment, but it came within hours af­ter The Wash­ing­ton Post re­ported that the spe­cial coun­sel’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion had ex­panded to in­clude ques­tions about Mr. Kush­ner’s busi­ness deal­ings.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Rod Rosen­stein is lead­ing the Rus­sia probe. If Mr. Rosen­stein re­cuses him­self from the case, As­so­ciate At­tor­ney Gen­eral Rachel Brand would take over.

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