Published: Sat, May 20, 2017
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Rosenstein Briefing to Senate Suggests Russia Probe Now Criminal, Republican Senator Says

That directly contradicts what Rosenstein told senators on Thursday: That he knew Trump planned to fire Comey as of the Monday after that hearing, and wrote his memo to justify that firing.

US Speaker of the House Paul Ryan speaks to the press about President Donald Trump, former FBI Director James Comey and Russian Federation investigations as Republican Conference Chairman Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R) looks on after a closed meeting of the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill in Washington, US May 17, 2017.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said after the meeting that Rosenstein had essentially confirmed Trump's recounting.

Sen. Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, said he also believes Rosenstein's memo had little to do with the president's decision.

President Donald Trump said Thursday he did not ask FBI Director James Comey to end his investigation into Russia's involvement in the 2016 election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.

Prior to Trump's Twitter outburst and his comments to news anchors, Politico reported that he actually handled the news "better than anyone expected", according to someone present in the Oval Office when Trump was first told of Rosenstein appointing Mueller.

Trump appeared to criticize Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos as he stood mere feet away, saying that country's rate of coca production is too high. "We can go back to dealing with legislative matters that affect the American people".

Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, a former CT attorney general, told reporters, "The special prosecutor is doing an investigation of criminal allegations that are extremely serious, including possible obstruction of justice". The sources said that the official is a senior White House adviser who is close to President Donald Trump.

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Trump is both publicly and privately stewing about Rosenstein's decision to name a special counsel. Trump tweeted Thursday morning. Blumenthal also said he found Rosenstein's answers on the genesis of the Comey memo lacking.

Trump later said he meant to fire Comey regardless of the Justice Department's advice, and that he had the FBI's probe into alleged Russian election interference in mind when he did so.

He said that he thinks the appointment of a special counsel "divides the country".

"If your implication is that the White House wants this, I think that's wrong", said Senate judiciary chair Chuck Grassley Wednesday night. That is likely one of the reasons Rosenstein named a special counsel Wednesday to lead an independent investigation into whether anyone on the Trump campaign cooperated with Russian Federation.

But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and the Senate Intelligence Committee's top Democrat, Mark Warner, insisted that shouldn't keep Comey from testifying before Congress about his firing, as many lawmakers have demanded. Several congressional Republicans said Wednesday that if Trump did suggest that Comey "let this go" regarding Flynn's Russian contacts, it was probably just a joke, light banter.

"I can't confirm or deny the existence or non-existence of investigations or targets of investigations", Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores told the Post.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of SC told reporters that it appears the FBI investigation is turning into a criminal investigation rather than a counterintelligence probe. "Zero", Trump said during the press conference.

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