Firing Rosenstein Wouldn’t Rid Trump of His Troubles

(Bloomberg Businessweek) -- Whatever the fate of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, he’s already given special counsel Robert Mueller 16 months to investigate the Trump campaign’s alleged collusion with the Russians. And as the probe has grown new branches, it’s become much harder for the president to stop.

Lead 1. Manafort

After securing a guilty plea from Trump’s former campaign chair, Paul Manafort, Mueller seems to be “in the fourth quarter” of his investigation, according to James Comey, the former FBI director whose firing led directly to Mueller’s appointment. In 2017, Rosenstein wrote a crucial memo backing Mueller’s investigation into Manafort’s consulting work for the Kremlin-friendly Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, though that work predated his involvement in Trump’s campaign. Manafort’s cooperation could be Mueller’s most significant accomplishment yet.

Lead 2. Hackers

Once the Mueller team filed charges against 12 Russian military agents for attacking the Democratic National Committee, it transferred the case to the Justice Department’s National Security Division (NSD), which is better equipped to deal with cases involving international espionage. Days later, Justice unveiled charges against Maria Butina, the alleged Russian spy who is said to have infiltrated the NRA and other conservative groups. That case doesn’t involve Mueller; it was brought by the NSD, working with the office of Jessie Liu, the U.S. attorney in D.C.

Lead 3. Cohen

The April FBI raid on the home and office of Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, came out of the Southern District of New York, but it was referred there by Mueller. Veteran SDNY prosecutor Robert Khuzami has secured a guilty plea from Cohen, who admitted that he violated campaign finance laws on behalf of—and, he says, with the knowledge of—candidate Trump. Khuzami is now pushing forward on his own, looking at other potential campaign finance violations that may have occurred at the Trump Organization.

Endgame

Mueller has shown before that he has more pieces of the puzzle than we think. Trump would have to do more than fire Rosenstein to kill the probes—not to mention the New York attorney general’s look into alleged misuse of funds at Trump’s charity. The president likely realizes it would be politically perilous to put the kibosh on all of them, says Samuel Buell of Duke University School of Law. “I don’t think you can put the cat back in the bag at this point.”

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