The Russia & Trump Investigation Involves A Possible Cover-Up, Congress Hears — REPORT
The FBI's investigation into Trump's Russia ties has been going on for a while now, but McClatchy reported on Friday that now, the Trump-Russia investigation involves a possible cover-up by White House officials as well. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein reportedly informed members of Congress of this on Friday, according to McClatchy. The scope of the investigation expanded after reports that Trump might have pressured former FBI Director James Comey to drop the agency's investigation into Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser. It's unclear which individuals the FBI is looking at with regard to a possible cover-up.
Rosenstein briefed lawmakers on Friday days after appointing a special prosecutor, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, to oversee the Russia investigation. Democrats and Republicans alike praised the appointment of Mueller, although Trump said that Rosenstein's decision to do so "hurts our country terribly."
The report comes hot on the heels of a Washington Post report, published earlier on Friday, alleging that the FBI's investigation into Russia has now named current senior White House adviser as a "person of interest." It's unknown who that individual is, and "person of interest" is a vague term that doesn't necessarily imply suspicion of criminal activity. However, the Post said that the individual in question is close with President Trump.
On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that, according to a memo written by Comey, Trump had asked the FBI director to shut down the probe into Flynn. After Comey refused to do so, Trump fired him. The White House initially said that Trump did so based on a separate memo written by Rosenstein; however, Trump himself later said that he was going to fire Comey regardless of the recommendation, and cited the "Russia thing" as something that was on his mind when he decided to let Flynn go. In his briefings with lawmakers, Rosenstein said that he knew Trump was going to fire Comey prior to writing the memo in question, according to McClatchy.
The Times reported on Friday that, in a recent Oval Office meeting with Russian officials, Trump called Comey a "nut job," and said that firing him relieved the "great pressure" he'd been feeling "because of Russia." The White House didn't dispute that report.
During a separate briefing on Thursday, Rosenstein said that the FBI's Russia investigation has been reclassified from a counterintelligence inquiry to a criminal probe, according to Democratic and Republican lawmakers. As the special prosecutor leading the inquiry, Mueller has the authority to bring criminal charges, and the reclassification of the investigation means that this is now a possibility.