For all of the president’s Twitter tantrums about how the investigation is supposedly “rigged,” Mueller has never alleged that the Trump campaign was complicit in Russia’s election meddling.
This is not for lack of thoroughness on the prosecutor’s part. Mueller has brought two sweeping indictments against Russian operatives. Rosenstein made these charges a point of emphasis in the interview. It is noteworthy, then, that these narrative “speaking indictments” appear to preclude the possibility of a conspiratorial relationship between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign. They indicate that Russia was conducting influence operations before Trump entered the campaign, that it orchestrated some against Trump, and that it wanted deniability.
Clearly, Rosenstein has been fixed on something often ignored by the president: Trump would benefit from being exonerated after a searching investigation by Mueller... He appointed Mueller at the end of a frenetic week in which, reportedly distraught, he discussed the possibility of covertly recording Trump at meetings to demonstrate the latter’s instability. This would be a prelude to invoking the 25th Amendment.. The Mueller appointment — after Rosenstein considered naming former Obama deputy attorney general James Cole — was designed to signal to the Washington establishment that Rosenstein (confirmed 94–6, thanks to overwhelming Democratic support in the Senate) was still on the team... For Trump’s part, moreover, it would be foolish to believe that the president’s drumbeat against the investigation means he fails to grasp the potential benefit of being cleared by Mueller. He surely gets it. Yet, unlike Rosenstein, Trump has had to live with the challenges of governing under a cloud of suspicion.. he may well believe these costs have outweighed any benefit he’d get from being cleared for something there was never much evidence he did. Plus, the president is nothing if not shrewd. There are political advantages in ripping the probe. He does not forfeit the upside of exoneration by stressing that his campaign and administration have been targeted by an investigation rife with leaks and other irregularities. Even if the riled-up Trump base believes the probe is a witch hunt, it would still credit him for being cleared... Rosenstein maintains — in the Journal’s words — that “the investigation has already revealed a widespread effort by Russians to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.”.. In fact, the indictments are more in the nature of publicity stunts than charging instruments. Foreign powers are subjected to counterintelligence investigations, not criminal probes, in part because they are essentially immune from prosecution. Mueller’s indictments against Russians enable Rosenstein and the special counsel’s other cheerleaders to argue that the dozens of people charged show that the special-counsel appointment was — as Rosenstein claims — “appropriate and independent.”.. But they don’t. An indictment is just an allegation; it does not prove anything. More to the point, everyone — very much including Rosenstein and Mueller — is well aware that Vladimir Putin was never, ever going to turn his operatives over to the American justice system for trial. As I’ve pointed out before, there are another 143 million people in Russia, and if Mueller were to charge every one of them, he’d have very impressive indictment statistics but he won’t have proved anything, and he won’t have come close to establishing that anyone in America, let alone the president of the United States, colluded in election interference... there is no reason the indictments against Russians could not have been filed by the Justice Department without the appointment of a special counsel.. Rosenstein refused to discuss well-sourced reports that he suggested covertly recording the president. It is not apparent whether he was asked about proposing that the 25th Amendment be invoked against Trump. Nor is there indication that Rosenstein was pressed on such flashpoints as whether he actually read the FISA surveillance warrant against a former Trump campaign official that he approved in June 2017.. (The warrant expressly said that the FBI believed that Trump campaign officials were likely complicit in Russia’s election interference.) And was Rosenstein asked about the Justice Department’s stonewalling of congressional inquiries into apparent investigative irregularities? We don’t know... a reader who had not been following the storms engulfing Rod Rosenstein’s tenure as deputy attorney general would come away come away from the Journal’s interview wondering why there is so much fuss about such a dedicated, unassuming public servant.