The Department of Justice in 2017 narrowed the scope of its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, cutting short a probe into President TrumpDonald John TrumpBirx says she’s hopeful about coronavirus vaccine but urges people to ‘do the right thing today’ McGahn argued Kushner’s security clearance should be downgraded: book Wisconsin governor urges Trump not to visit Kenosha: ‘I am concerned your presence will only hinder our healing’ MORE’s business ties to Moscow, The New York Times reported.
Then-Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinFive takeaways from final Senate Intel Russia report FBI officials hid copies of Russia probe documents fearing Trump interference: book Sally Yates to testify as part of GOP probe into Russia investigation MORE limited the investigation to exclude those ties without telling the FBI, according to the Times. Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeFBI officials hid copies of Russia probe documents fearing Trump interference: book Senate GOP set to ramp up Obama-era probes Showtime miniseries to feature Jeff Daniels as Comey, Brendan Gleeson as Trump MORE, who served as deputy FBI director at the time, told the newspaper that Rosenstein did not tell him that he was limiting the probe, leading McCabe to believe special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN’s Toobin warns McCabe is in ‘perilous condition’ with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill’s 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE would investigate the president’s business connections. McCabe added that he would have tasked the FBI with that aspect of the inquiry had he known Mueller would not investigate 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,” McCabe told the Times. “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.”
When he installed Mueller as special counsel in May 2017, Rosenstein gave him the mandate of investigating “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government” and the Trump campaign.
In private, however, Rosenstein directed Mueller to limit his investigation to any lawbreaking in connection with Russian election interference, the Times reported, citing former law enforcement officials.
Journalist Jeffrey Toobin, who first reported the conversation for a book, wrote that Rosenstein warned Mueller against a “fishing expedition” similar to Ken Starr’s investigation into President Clinton.
“This is a criminal investigation. Do your job, and then shut it down,” Toobin quotes Rosenstein as saying.
As a result, Mueller built a team that predominantly investigated crimes rather than national security threats, McCabe told the Times, even though it was “first and foremost a counterintelligence case.”
The Hill has reached out to the Justice Department for comment.