The Mueller report has always been subject to criticism, the chief criticism being that the investigation didn’t go into detail about Donald Trump’s many ties to Russia and the security threat that that posed. Now we find out that Robert Mueller wasn’t incompetent nor negligent, as he has been accused of being, he was told by Rod Rosenstein to narrow the scope of his investigation to omit that information. That is a questionable thing to do, on Rosenstein’s part, to say the very least, but to not even discuss the matter with acting bureau director Andrew McCabe is egregious. Specifically, Rosenstein instructed Mueller to conduct only a criminal investigation into whether anyone broke the law in connection with Russia’s 2016 election interference — not into Trump’s ties with Russia, which is the full picture. New York Times:
… law enforcement officials never fully investigated Mr. Trump’s own relationship with Russia, even though some career F.B.I. counterintelligence investigators thought his ties posed such a national security threat that they took the extraordinary step of opening an inquiry into them. Within days, the former deputy attorney general Rod J. Rosenstein curtailed the investigation without telling the bureau, all but ensuring it would go nowhere.
A bipartisan report by the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee released this month came the closest to an examination of the president’s links to Russia. Senators depicted extensive ties between Trump associates and Russia, identified a close associate of a former Trump campaign chairman as a Russian intelligence officer and outlined how allegations about Mr. Trump’s encounters with women during trips to Moscow could be used to compromise him. But the senators acknowledged they lacked access to the full picture, particularly any insight into Mr. Trump’s finances.
McCabe said that he was never told about the narrowing of the course and scope of the investigation, and if he had known that Mueller wasn’t going to conduct an inquiry into Trump’s links with Russia he would have had the F.B.I. do it.
“We opened this case in May 2017 because we had information that indicated a national security threat might exist, specifically a counterintelligence threat involving the president and Russia,” Mr. McCabe said. “I expected that issue and issues related to it would be fully examined by the special counsel team. If a decision was made not to investigate those issues, I am surprised and disappointed. I was not aware of that.” […]
Simply investigating crimes, Mr. McCabe said, was a mismatched approach for a national security threat.
“It was first and foremost a counterintelligence case,” Mr. McCabe said. “Could the president actually be the point of coordination between the campaign and the Russian government? Could the president actually be maintaining some sort of inappropriate relationship with our most significant adversary in the world?”
The firing of James Comey was the stupidest thing that Trump could have done. Comey told Congress on March 20 that the F.B.I. was investigating “whether there was any coordination between the [Trump] campaign and Russia’s efforts” to influence the 2016 presidential election. If he had just let Comey finish whatever investigation was going on, there would never have been the need for a special counsel. All Trump did was shoot himself in the foot by firing Comey two months later. It is noteworthy that he did so at the urging of Jared Kushner and against the advice of Steve Bannon. Maybe Kushner had a vested interest in seeing the Russia investigation derailed? I don’t know, just speculating.
In all events, when Trump fired Comey he claimed that it had nothing to do with the Russia investigation, but was a response to Rosenstein’s two-and-a-half page memo entitled, “Restoring Public Confidence In The FBI” As you may recall, that was yet another missive directed at the seemingly eternal issue of Hillary Clinton’s emails. The only problem then, was that Trump forgot what he just said, and then he told NBC’s Lester Holt that he did fire Comey over Russia. In the meantime, McCabe asked Rosenstein to appoint a special counsel and was relieved when he did.
“It was the most enormous exhale of my life,” Mr. McCabe said. “I had been holding my breath” since the night Mr. Comey was fired, he added.
That day, Mr. Rosenstein joined Mr. McCabe while he briefed lawmakers about matters including the counterintelligence investigation and raised no objections.
The following day, Mr. McCabe briefed Mr. Mueller and his top deputies on the investigation into the president. But Mr. McCabe did not know that Mr. Rosenstein also gave his instruction to Mr. Mueller around that time to focus on whether crimes were committed.
So any counterintelligence risk that Donald Trump may pose has not been investigated, believe it or not, to this day. At least, it was not investigated by Robert Mueller, because he was instructed by Rod Rosenstein to tailor his investigation differently. And this is known to Adam Schiff, who said last week in a memo that he had reason to believe “that the F.B.I. Counterintelligence Division has not investigated counterintelligence risks arising from President Trump’s foreign financial ties.”
And all of this is going on while while John Ratcliffe announces he’s curtailing briefings on the subject of election interference and will only provide written reports. As Schiff said last week, “the administration clearly does not want Congress or the country informed of what Russia is doing.” You got that one right.
This is all pretty amazing, happening 64 days before a presidential election, but then we are in the era of Trump, so what would be amazing elsewhere is merely pedestrian here.