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Rod Rosenstein to testify about Russia probe

Chris Megerian, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- As deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein oversaw the Russia investigation for two years, pushing back on White House criticism and declaring it wasn't the "witch hunt" that President Donald Trump had claimed.

Rosenstein, who appointed Robert S. Mueller III as special counsel in 2017 and supervised his work, is scheduled to testify to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday for the first time since the probe ended last year and he left the Justice Department to become a partner at a prominent law firm.

His testimony comes as Trump and his allies pursue a sweeping campaign to undo the results of the special counsel investigation, which ended in March 2019 after producing charges or convictions against 34 people.

Attorney General William Barr asked a judge last month to drop the government's case against Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security advisor and the only former White House official charged in the probe. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents but later claimed he was innocent.

Barr and Rosenstein stood side by side when they released Mueller's final report last year. But Barr later harshly criticized the investigation and ordered a review by John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut.

In recent weeks, senior intelligence officials have declassified documents involving the origins of the Russia investigation, fueling Trump's claims that he was the target of a sinister and vague conspiracy that he calls "Obamagate."

The president has also mused about pardoning Roger Stone, his longtime political advisor, who was convicted of lying to Congress and witness tampering.

The legal and political tumult over the Russia probe reflects Trump's enduring anger over an investigation that cast a shadow over the first two years of his administration.

Mueller did not establish a criminal conspiracy between the president's team and Moscow, which spread disinformation on social media and hacked Democratic Party emails during the 2016 presidential race.

 

However, U.S. intelligence agencies determined that Russia wanted to boost Trump to victory, and Mueller's investigation showed how his campaign welcomed that assistance.

The special counsel's office also investigated whether Trump obstructed justice by trying to interfere with the Russia investigation. Mueller ultimately did not say whether the president broke the law but said the evidence "does not exonerate him."

The investigation ensnared several members of Trump's inner circle, including his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, and his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison for various crimes, including lying to Congress about Trump's efforts to build a skyscraper in Moscow during the presidential campaign. Manafort was sentenced to more than seven years for tax evasion, bank fraud and conducting an illegal lobbying campaign on behalf of the former Russia-backed government in Ukraine.

Both men are under home confinement as federal prisons release some inmates to reduce the risk of infection from the coronavirus.

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