Trump eases up on Mueller and Rosenstein with eye on bringing Russia investigation to a close
President Trump might finally be ditching his urge to fire deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, after spending months angrily venting to aides and members of his legal team about the widening scope of the Russia investigation.
Questions surrounding Rosenstein’s fate have loomed large over the special counsel probe ever since it became clear that investigators were looking beyond possible collusion between Trump associates and Russia actors during the 2016 election and into financial and federal crimes committed by individuals in Trump’s orbit.
In early April, following a raid on the hotel room and office of Trump’s longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen, the president insisted he and his legal team were “very calm and calculated” in their response to the incident. But behind the scenes, and later on Twitter, Trump lashed out at Rosenstein and special counsel Robert Mueller. The episode marked one of many public displays of frustration by Trump since his attorney general recused himself from the Russia inquiry last May, paving the way for the ongoing special counsel investigation.
“Much of the bad blood with Russia is caused by the Fake & Corrupt Russia investigation, headed up by all the Democrat loyalists, or people that worked for Obama,” Trump tweeted on April 11.
“Mueller is most conflicted of all (except Rosenstein who signed FISA [and] Comey letter). No Collusion, so they go crazy!” he added.
Trump grew even more frustrated after learning that FBI officials seized dozens of recordings Cohen kept in his office, along with documents reportedly pertaining to the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape and the New York attorney’s $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, whose lawyer has accused Trump and Cohen of executing a cover-up to protect the president from allegations of an affair with Daniels.
“The president was in rare form,” one Republican close to the White House said of the days following the Cohen raid.
Materials seized during the raid of Cohen’s office are now awaiting review by an independent lawyer, pending a decision by U.S. District Court Judge Kimba Wood, who declined on Monday to give Trump’s personal attorney exclusive access to the documents ahead of the prosecution.
As that court battle unfolded on Monday, critics of the White House worried Trump would finally move to fire Rosenstein, who personally authorized the raid on Cohen, according to multiple reports.
But by the time Wednesday rolled around, the president hadn’t taken any action against Rosenstein and made comments that some took as indicating he had moved away from committing such a deed.
“They’ve been saying I’m going to get rid of [Mueller and Rosenstein] for the last three months, four months, five months, and they’re still here,” the president told reporters during a joint news conference with the prime minister of Japan.
Calling the Russia probe a “very bad thing for our country,” Trump added that he wanted “to get the investigation over with, done with, put it behind us.”
The president’s comment about Rosenstein and Mueller came days after the deputy attorney general was spotted at the White House leaving an Oval Office meeting. Rosenstein reportedly assured Trump during that meeting he was not currently a target of any part of the federal investigation into Cohen, which is being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York. Bloomberg News first disclosed details of Trump’s conversation with Rosenstein on Thursday, including that the president later told his senior advisers it would be inopportune time to fire the top Justice Department official, as doing so could prolong the investigation further.
Trump also tapped former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani to join his legal team this week, adding a formal criminal attorney to his team to has openly advocated for leaving Mueller and Rosenstein to perform their jobs uninterrupted.
“My advice on Mueller has been this: He should be allowed to do his job. He’s entitled to do his job,” Giuliani told the Washington Post after the news broke about his hiring. The former federal prosecutor, who’s been a staunch supporter of the White House, also said his primary goal is to “negotiate an end to this for the good of the country and because I have high regard for the president and for Bob Mueller.”
Despite publicly protesting the Russia probe on a regular basis, Trump has previously denied reports that he was considering taking action to end it.
“I have agreed with the historically cooperative, disciplined approach that we have engaged in with Robert Mueller,” the president tweeted the same day Rosenstein paid him a visit at the White House.
“If I wanted to fire Robert Mueller in December, as reported by the Failing New York Times, I would have fired him,” he added, denying reports that he seriously entertained the idea of firing the special counsel late last year.
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