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Excerpt: "The bipartisan consensus is that the Trump-Russia investigation has taken on a new level of seriousness."

Donald Trump met the Russian ambassador in the Oval Office. (photo: Getty)
Donald Trump met the Russian ambassador in the Oval Office. (photo: Getty)


Justice Department: The Trump/Russia Inquiry Is Now a Criminal Investigation

By Alex Thompson and Alexandra Jaffe, VICE

19 May 17

 

embers of the Trump White House might need to lawyer up.

A day after appointing former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel in the investigation into possible collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein travelled to Capitol Hill to brief the entire Senate on the status of the investigation and what comes next.

The bipartisan consensus afterward is that the Trump-Russia investigation has taken on a new level of seriousness.

“It was a counterintelligence investigation before now. It seems to me now to be considered a criminal investigation,” said Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Trump told reporters at the White House on Thursday that he believed the special counsel “hurts our country terribly, because it shows we’re a divided, mixed up, not unified country.” He also assured the audience at a separate event that, “believe me, there’s no collusion.” But at the same time, White House officials have been discussing bringing in additional legal counsel to deal with the growing probe, according to the New York Times.

Rosenstein also assured the senators that there would be no meddling or curtailing of the special counsel, even though the Department of Justice technically has the ability to do so.

“[Rosenstein] said over and over again that Mueller is going to draw the scope of this investigation, that Mueller is going to have the resources, that Mueller is not going to be interfered with by him or the Department of Justice,” said Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin.

Durbin and other Democrats complained, however, that Rosenstein refused to answer many of their questions and did so by citing the seriousness of the investigation. “I don’t know all the facts,” said Democratic Sen. Cory Booker but added that “it was good to hear from him directly and not through the media filter.”

There was also concern among the senators that this new phase of the investigation would lead to a shroud of secrecy leaving them and the public in the dark. “[O]ne of the big losers in this decision is the public,” Graham said and added that he worried lawmakers would have trouble getting responses to subpoenas delivered to potential witnesses or convincing them to testify in a public congressional hearing because they’d be more likely to plead the fifth to avoid incriminating themselves.

In the meeting, Rosenstein also cast further doubt on the White House’s initial explanation for why Trump fired FBI Director James Comey on May 9. White House officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, initially said that Trump only fired Comey on Rosenstein’s recommendation — a contention supported by Trump’s signed termination letter to Comey, which cited Rosenstein’s memo as the rationale to dismiss the director.

But Trump almost immediately undermined that explanation in an interview with NBC News, saying, “Regardless of the recommendation I was going to fire Comey.” Trump muddled the waters further on Thursday, when he again cited Rosenstein’s memo as one of the reasons he fired Comey.

But Rosenstein contradicted the White House’s original explanation, according to some Democratic senators. “[Rosenstein] learned that Comey would be removed prior to him writing his memo,” Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri told reporters.

Others argued that Rosenstein was not so definitive on the timeline. “I’m not sure he addressed that with the level of clarity most people wanted,” Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said, echoing what’s become a common refrain in Washington these days.

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-1 # Johnny 2017-05-19 10:02
The deep state wants war to punish Russia for aiding Syria, because if Syria survives, Israeli planes can't fly over it to bomb Iran, and if Israel can't destroy Iran, it can't prevent Hezbola from obtaining the weapons it needs to defend Lebanon, so Israel can't annex Lebanon. The deep state owns the mainstream media, and is whipping the idiot masses into a frenzy of hate so they will accept war against Russia.
 
 
0 # lfeuille 2017-05-19 23:32
That is what the deep state wants, but Trump, in his arrogance has handed them a legitimate obstruction of justice case. If he had stayed out of it, it wouldn't have escalated to this extent. I think those pinning hopes for better relations with Russia are deluding themselves. Trump is out for himself. Everything else is a matter of expedience. He is not capable of conducting a coherent foreign policy.
 
 
-9 # lnason@umassd.edu 2017-05-19 10:56
I know progressives would love to find that there is a "there" there (and I wouldn't mind it either since I think about half of Trump's actions have been misguided), but this appears to be mere wishful thinking.

After nearly a year of investigating this matter and after half a year of hundreds of un-sourced (and often false) anti-Trump leaks from within the intelligence community, and no one has yet provided any evidence of criminal activity, don't progressives see that there are no prosecutable offenses here?

On the other hand, if progressives elites do, in fact, understand this rather obvious fact, perhaps these articles are actually part of the "resist" strategy -- kick up enough dust, call it smoke, and keep the fire alarm ringing so that Trump is unable to complete his agenda. If that is the case, it is working for the moment but will make progressives look stupid and paranoid in the long run and, in addition, false smears are ethically unacceptable.

Mueller is really not a very good choice for various reasons but even he will eventually have to conclude this witch hunt. Witch hunts are always successful in the short term since it is literally impossible to prove that one is not a witch.

Lee Nason
New Bedford, Massachusetts
 
 
0 # lfeuille 2017-05-19 23:33
There is no there there on Russiagate, but obstruction of justice is there. Trump put it there.
 
 
0 # Femihumanist 2017-05-19 12:22
So Trump says the special counsel hurts our country because it shows how mixed-up and divided we are. I was never a fan of Obama but didn't Trump criticize him for idiotic reasons and try to show how "mixed-up" we are? Wouldn't he have doubled down on the criticism if Hillary had been elected?

I hate to speak of mental illness as an evil but the people who let Trump's mental illness run the country are definitely evil.
 
 
+1 # ericlipps 2017-05-19 20:32
Lee, what you call a "rather obvious fact" is seen rather differently by a lot of people, by no means all of whom are "progressives." Republicans are sidling away from Trump--okay, some of that is because they increasingly think he's nuts, but they also fear he's guilty of serious offenses which, if definitively proven, could wreck the GOP's electoral chances for years.
 
 
0 # Time Traveller 2017-05-19 23:50
Yeah, its funny how coat-tail riders bail out when they get dragged through a mud hole. Kinda like fleas hopping from a dying dog to a healthier one, but with so many damned sick puppies in Washington, healthy dogs are a tad thin on the ground.
 
 
0 # FDRva 2017-05-20 03:43
The Tea Party & Occupy Wall Street have a lot in common.

The election of Trump proves it.

Does any one really think Barry Obama and Hill Clinton quit working for Wall Street? Many voters in the drug ravaged Midwest did not.
 
 
0 # FDRva 2017-05-20 04:09
More Wars. More Bailouts. That's the Obama record. Which includes the attempted bailout of Health Insurance cartels known as 'Obamacare'

Trump opposed TPP--and killed it.

The facts suggest that Trump--warts and all--was the more progressive economic candidate in 2016.
 

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