New Details From Rosenstein Memo Reveal Scope of Comey’s Russia Probe

May 7, 2020 Updated: May 8, 2020

Newly declassified portions of the scope memo issued to special counsel Robert Mueller in August 2017 reveal the extent of the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign shortly after the firing of then-Director James Comey.

The Justice Department on May 6 declassified portions of the Aug. 2, 2017, memo by then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in response to a request from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

Portions of the memo had already been made public in 2018 as part of the special counsel’s prosecution of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. The details revealed in 2018 showed that Rosenstein tasked the special counsel with investigating the allegations that were within the scope of the FBI’s Trump campaign probe at the time of Mueller’s appointment on May 17, 2017.

The new details beneath the previously blacked-out portions of the memo show that the FBI was still investigating allegations against Trump campaign associate Carter Page in May 2017, which were part of the infamous Steele dossier. At the time, the bureau had already been aware for months that the dossier was likely tainted with Russian disinformation, and had also already learned that Page was a source for the CIA and had briefed the agency about his contacts with Russians.

While some of the news coverage of the newly declassified details appears to fault Rosenstein for tasking Mueller with investigating the claims from the shoddy dossier, the memo makes it clear the listed allegations were part of the FBI probe that the special counsel was taking over. The integrity of the investigation would likely have been questioned if Rosenstein had acted to limit the scope.

The newly declassified sections also show that, in addition to investigating allegations of Trump campaign associate George Papadopoulos colluding with Russia, the FBI was probing whether Papadopoulos committed crimes by allegedly acting as an unregistered agent of Israel. Papadopoulos had previously told lawmakers that the special counsel threatened to investigate him as an agent of Israel. Questions remain about his hastily arranged trip to Israel, during which he claims to have reluctantly accepted $10,000.

“Incredible that Comey wanted to frame the Israelis and me,” Papadopoulos wrote in a Twitter message responding to the news. “You can’t make this up.”

In addition to the now-public allegations about former national security adviser Michael Flynn—lying to the FBI and violating the Logan Act—the FBI was investigating an allegation that Flynn broke the law as an agent of Turkey and that he failed to properly report foreign income.

The bureau was also investigating whether Manafort broke the law by seeking a loan from a bank whose CEO was seeking a position in the Trump administration.

Papadopoulos and Manafort have both been convicted of crimes unrelated to Russian collusion, the central theme of Mueller’s probe.

Page was never charged with a crime even after a yearlong intrusive surveillance campaign, at least six months of which has since been deemed invalid.

The DOJ on May 7 moved to drop its prosecution of Flynn, in a sudden end to the protracted legal battle, after Flynn withdrew his guilty plea last year. The court must still formally approve the request.

New documents produced as part of the Justice Department’s review of the case show that the FBI had cleared Flynn of allegedly being an agent of Russia in January 2017, before the bureau’s upper echelon intervened to keep the case open.

A portion of the memo pertaining to an unidentified subject remains classified.

The Justice Department and Rosenstein didn’t respond to a request for comment.

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