Significant developments occurred in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation in the last 24 hours.
A Monday night court filing by Mueller’s team revealed that the Department of Justice provided the special counsel explicit permission to investigate collusion between President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and the Russian government last August. On Tuesday, a Dutch lawyer who lied to investigators received the first prison sentence related to the probe.
The brief filed Monday night publicized that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein wrote a memo on Aug. 2, 2017, authorizing Mueller to investigate claims that Manafort “committed a crime or crimes by colluding with Russian government officials.”
“It would also naturally look into any interactions they may have had before and during the campaign to plumb motives and opportunities to coordinate and to expose possible channels for surreptitious communications. And prosecutors would naturally follow the money trail from Manafort’s Ukrainian consulting activities,” the memo reads.
The special counsel’s filing followed Manafort’s escalation of attacks against Mueller.
Manafort, who filed not guilty pleas for charges of money laundering, conspiracy, and making false claims about his foreign lobbying, has sought to dismiss the indictments against him by claiming the prosecution overstepped its authority.
He is scheduled to face a jury in Virginia in July and subsequently appear in court in Washington D.C. in September. Bloomberg reported that Manafort’s spokesman did not respond when contacted.
Monday’s filing offers rare insight into the conduct of Rosenstein, who has kept a relatively low profile during the investigation but at times received negative attention from Trump. The president would not respond to reporters’ recent inquiries about whether he was considering firing the deputy attorney general, who is overseeing Mueller’s investigation. Rosenstein has attempted to navigate between Trump’s frequent criticism of Mueller’s investigation and Democratic concerns that the president will undercut or compromise the probe.
The release of information about Rosenstein’s authorization will likely provide assurance for Democrats who were concerned that the DOJ would prohibit a thorough investigation. While the memo does not offer insight about the evidence possessed by Mueller’s team, it provides a glimpse of previously-hidden relations between parties involved in the probe.