Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told Fox News on Sunday that special counsel Robert Mueller “understands and I understand the specific scope of the investigation” into Russia’s campaign influence operation and potential Trump campaign ties, “and so it’s not a fishing expedition.”
“If he finds evidence of a crime that’s within the scope of what Director Mueller and I have agreed is the appropriate scope of the investigation, then he can,” Rosenstein said. “If it’s something that’s outside that scope, he needs to come to the acting attorney general — at this time, me — for a permission to expand his investigation. But we don’t talk about that publicly.”
The May order from Rosenstein appointing Mueller says his investigation will include “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump; and any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation; and any other matters” within the scope of the probe.
News broke last week that Mueller impaneled a grand jury in D.C. in recent weeks and has begun issuing subpoenas. He’s put together a team of 16 prosecutors with extensive experience including money laundering and organized crime as the investigation intensifies.
Rosenstein wouldn’t comment on whether a grand jury has been opened, but said “it doesn’t say anything about the likelihood of indictments because we conduct investigations and we make a determination that at some point in the course of the investigation about whether charges are appropriate.”
“It’s an appropriate way to gather documents, sometimes to bring witnesses in, to make sure that you get their full testimony,” he said of the grand jury. “It’s just a tool that we use like any other tool in the course of our investigations.”
The deputy attorney general noted that Ken Starr received permission from Attorney General Janet Reno to expanded his investigation in President Clinton after the Whitewater investigation uncovered the Monica Lewinsky affair.
“I can assure you that we are going to do the right thing and follow the rule of law,” Rosenstein said of the Justice Department team.
Asked about President Trump’s recent statement that the DOJ should be investigation Hillary Clinton’s emails, Rosenstein said the president “has not directed us to investigate particular people.”
“That wouldn’t be right,” he said. “That’s not the way we operate.”