WASHINGTON, D.C. — Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein reportedly prevented a complete investigation into President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.

What You Need To Know

  • Rosenstein told Mueller not to investigate counterintelligence matters involving Trump and Russia, The New York Times reported

  • The FBI did not know about Rosenstein's order and believed Mueller's team was conducting a counterintelligence inquiry, the report said

  • Rosenstein reportedly believed the FBI lacked sufficient reason to investigate Trump's ties to Russia

  • The report indicates there has never been a complete investigation into whether Trump's links to Russia pose a national security threat

According a report by The New York Times’ Michael S. Schmidt, Rosenstein directed Special Counsel Robert Mueller to limit the scope of his inquiry to possible crimes, not national security threats. Rosenstein made that order without telling the FBI, which had launched the investigation because counterintelligence investigators thought Trump’s links to Russia posed a potential national security threat, the report said.

The report cites interviews with former Justice Department and FBI officials and was adapted from Schmidt’s book “Donald Trump v. The United States: Inside the Struggle to Stop a President,” which will be released Tuesday.

Rosenstein’s alleged curtailing of the investigation came despite just days earlier ordering Mueller to examine “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government” and the Trump campaign. 

Andrew McCabe, who was the interim FBI director after Trump fired James Comey and who urged Rosenstein to appoint a special counsel to take over the investigation he had launched, told Schmidt he believed Mueller’s team was looking into counterintelligence matters. 

“I expected that issue and issues related to it would be fully examined by the special counsel team,” McCabe said. “If a decision was made not to investigate those issues, I am surprised and disappointed. I was not aware of that.

“It was first and foremost a counterintelligence case,” McCabe added. “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?”

McCabe told the Times that he would have had the FBI continue its counterintelligence inquiry had he known the special counsel was not handling it.

According to the newspaper, Rosenstein concluded the FBI lacked sufficient reason to investigate Trump’s links to Russia and that investigators acted too hastily in response to the president’s firing of Comey. Rosenstein also reportedly believed McCabe had conflicts of interest. 

The former deputy attorney general declined to comment to the Times.

There have been questions about Trump’s relationship with Russia dating back to the 2016 election. Despite insisting he had no business ties to the country, he sought for years to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, including during the campaign. And sons Eric and Donald Jr. both reportedly made comments in years past attributing Trump Organization money and assets to business with Russia. 

Also, a Senate report earlier this month revealed allegations of potentially compromising encounters with women in Moscow in 1996 and 2013. 

Meanwhile, Trump has repeatedly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, held behind-closed-doors meetings with the adversarial strongman and rejected U.S. intelligence findings that Russia interfered with the 2016 election to help Trump’s chances. Trump also has questioned American intelligence findings that Russia paid bounties to the Taliban to have U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan killed, and he has reportedly never confronted Putin about the matter.

McCabe opened the counterintelligence probe in the wake of Trump’s decision to fire Comey in May 2017. FBI officials questioned whether Russia had leverage over the president and whether he was trying to thwart any investigations before damaging information was discovered.

McCabe says he knew he would not lead the agency for long and wanted to establish the investigation quickly so that it could not be shut down without justification. 

Mueller’s investigation led to three dozen indictments as well as a handful of convictions of Trump associates. The investigation did not establish that Trump or his campaign conspired with the Russian government in its interference into the election. Mueller also did not reach a conclusion on whether the president obstructed justice, but his report did not exonerate Trump, either.