The chatterati are buzzing about this cryptic communique as I write this at 10:55 ET but surely there’s less to it than meets the eye. Surely?
Rosenstein holding 11:45am presser for a “law enforcement announcement”
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) July 13, 2018
The reason for thinking it’s related to Russiagate is that there’s no other obvious explanation for Rosenstein making the announcement. Any unrelated news big enough to warrant a statement from the deputy attorney general should be big enough to warrant a statement from the attorney general. That is, if the feds have just disrupted a terror plot or whatever, you’d expect Sessions to make the announcement. Russiagate’s the only matter from which Sessions is recused so announcements about it would naturally fall to Rosenstein.
But think this through. Trump’s already sold much of the public (that leans right, anyway) on the idea that Mueller’s probe is a politically motivated attempt to weaken and embarrass him. If Rosenstein dropped a bombshell while the president isn’t even in the country, he’d be playing into that. Trump would be stuck in the UK, suddenly embroiled in domestic political drama and humiliated in front of the Brits. Worse, he’s days away from meeting Putin face-to-face in Helsinki for their big summit. A major Russiagate announcement under the circumstances would be viewed as a deliberate cold-blooded attempt to wreck that before it happens, further reinforcing the perception that it’s a political operation. Mueller and Rosenstein, sensitive to the criticism that they’re in the tank, would have no reason not to wait a week and make the big reveal when Trump’s back home. Which is to say, if there’s any Russiagate news this morning, it’s more likely to favor Trump than otherwise.
And now that I think of it, there might be a reason why Sessions would prefer to have Rosenstein make an announcement that’s unrelated to the Russia probe. With Trump doing everything he can to wreck Rosenstein’s credibility, having him in front of the cameras to announce a terror bust would help shore up his credibility with the public and remind skeptics that the guy does have other duties at the DOJ that don’t involve bringing down the president. Probably that’s all there is to this morning’s cameo.
But stand by, just in case. We live in a world now in which American politics is a cross between “The Twilight Zone” and “Veep.” Rosenstein blowing up Trump on the eve of his meeting with Putin would be nothing if not dramatic.
While we wait, a tidbit from Gabriel Sherman of Vanity Fair:
[J]ust the other day, I was told by someone who had spoken with Hannity that Hannity has been telling the president that the moment that Robert Mueller issues his report to the Justice Department on the obstruction of justice case that … he’s supposed to deliver this summer prior to the midterm elections, that Hannity has been telling the president that that is the moment he needs to fire Robert Mueller and [Rod] Rosenstein, because he can then go to the public and say, “Oh well, this isn’t obstruction. I waited till they delivered the report, and now this witch hunt needs to end.”
Hannity denies it, of course. Speaking of Fox News and Russiagate, a new Fox poll finds that while approval of Mueller’s investigation has dipped below 50 percent (now 48/40 among the population), a majority of 53 percent says Trump isn’t tough enough on Russia. And when asked whether Mueller should finish it the hell up already, as Trey Gowdy colorfully put it to Rosenstein a few weeks ago, or take his time and do things right, Americans split 55/34 in favor of the latter. Mueller’s credibility is down since Trump started his PR offensive but there are still more people willing to let him keep working than otherwise.
Update: Suspense builds.
CNN is now reporting that a new indictment IS expected in Mueller probe today. Rod Rosenstein's presser begins in five minutes.
— Nora Neus (@noraneus) July 13, 2018
Update: Tweeting during the next session of “executive time” is going to be extra zesty.
Trump's meeting with the Queen is one of the things he wanted most this trip. That footage of his meeting w HMQE is going to be overshadowed by a Mueller indictment is not going to make him happy.
— Christina Wilkie (@christinawilkie) July 13, 2018
Update: Further to my point about American politics essentially being a dramatic TV show now, Rosenstein is minutes away from speaking while Trump is minutes away from meeting the Queen. If he speaks to the press during their photo op together, odds are like 90 percent that he’s going to start rambling about Mueller.
Update: My God. Mueller blew up the Putin summit.
12 Russian intelligence officials charged with hacking into DNC and HRC campaign and disseminating info.
— David Corn (@DavidCornDC) July 13, 2018
This isn’t the first time Mueller’s indicted Russians for hacking related to the campaign but it is the first time he’s accused officials of the Russian government, specifically, of engaging in hacking. He’s going to lay this in Putin’s lap three days before Helsinki and essentially force Trump to choose whom he believes, his own DOJ or Russian denials.
Update: Here’s the DOJ release. All 12 Russians charged are members of GRU, the intelligence wing of the Russian military. They’re pointing the finger right at the Russian government for hacking the DNC and Hillary’s campaign — by which I assume they mean Podesta — in 2016.
— Laura Jarrett (@LauraAJarrett) July 13, 2018
Note the end of page two, though: There’s no allegation that any American citizen was a knowing participant in the hackings or knew they were communicating with Russian officials. Which, I suppose, leaves open a question. Did anyone participate in/communicate about the hackings thinking they were talking to non-Russians? Is that a sly reference to Roger Stone?
Update: Here’s the indictment at the DOJ website in PDF form.
Update: Anti-Trumpers are passing around this tweet from summer 2016.
Update: Gonna guess this is a reference to Stone:
From the indictment:
"The conspirators, posing as Guccifer 2.0, wrote to a person who was in regular contact with senior members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump" pic.twitter.com/Qs8yLZyQaU
— Greg Sargent (@ThePlumLineGS) July 13, 2018
Update: The DOJ has now posted the text of Rosenstein’s statement this morning, as prepared for delivery. He notes at one point that “In addition to releasing documents directly to the public, the defendants transferred stolen documents to another organization, not named in the indictment…” I’m gonna go waaaaaay out on a limb and guess that that’s Wikileaks.
Update: Will anyone who tried to pin the DNC hacking on Seth Rich apologize to his family? No, I know. Of course not.
Reminder that Julian Assange (who was in a position to know) and others have spent the past 2 years trying to pin the DNC hack on Seth Rich, a slain DNC junior staffer who cannot defend himself. https://t.co/ibOGMpC27Z
— Alex Seitz-Wald (@aseitzwald) July 13, 2018
Update: Well, isn’t this interesting?
— Peter J. Hasson (@peterjhasson) July 13, 2018
A candidate for Congress got dirt on an opponent directly from the Russians in the form of Guccifer 2.0? Who was it?