The FBI opened an obstruction of justice case against President Donald Trump before Special Counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Trump said earlier this year that he was assured by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that he was not a target or subject of Robert Mueller’s probe.
The final Mueller report showed his investigators looked very closely at the question of whether president Trump obstructed justice, while not reaching a conclusion.
However, according to the court document released this week, that avenue of investigation was being pursued before Robert Mueller even took over. Michael Dreeben, an attorney for the special counsel’s office, said in a January 2018 hearing in federal court that in 2017, “Before the appointment of the Special Counsel on May 17th, the FBI had opened up an investigation into obstruction of justice.”
The 2018 hearing surrounded an unsuccessful lawsuit from CNN seeking copies Comey’s memos about his interactions with president Trump. CNN published a transcript of that hearing on Tuesday just after the Justice Department, under a court order, was forced to provide the transcript to them.
CNN previously cited unnamed sources in saying then-acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe opened the obstruction investigation after James Comey was fired and before Robert Mueller was appointed. McCabe then later said in an interview that he launched the probe at that point. The court filing provides additional confirmation of that timeline.
During the court hearing, the special counsel’s office argued against releasing James Comey memos, saying they would interfere with the investigation.
Mueller was appointed by Rod Rosenstein in May 2017 to investigate any links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump campaign, as well any other matters that arose from the investigation.
In his report released last month, Special Counsel Robert Mueller stated his investigators found no evidence that Trump’s campaign illegally coordinated with Russia. The investigation also found no evidence Trump obstructed justice, though it claimed Trump told White House counsel Don McGahn to seek Mueller’s removal – something he never did.
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