Third Mueller scope memo shows Rosenstein confirmed investigative authority at special counsel’s request

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The third memorandum detailing the widening scope of Robert Mueller’s investigation was declassified and made public on Wednesday, showing that, differently from the first two memos authored by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, this final memo granting investigative authority to the special counsel was signed onto by Rosenstein at Mueller’s request rather than written by Rosenstein directly.

The four-page, partially redacted memo “from” now-former Associate Deputy Attorney General Scott Schools and “through” former Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General Robert Hur “for” Rosenstein, was signed off on by the former deputy attorney general on Oct. 20, 2017, and dealt with the “Confirmation of Authorization of the Special Counsel to Investigate Enumerated Matters.”

The memo approved by Rosenstein noted: “The Special Counsel requests confirmation of his authority to investigate the matters identified below. The requested confirmation facilities an efficient, full, and thorough investigation of the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election … It may be appropriate to reassign certain matters identified below to a United States Attorney’s Office or Department component at some point in the future. I recommend that you confirm the authority of the Special Counsel to investigate matters identified herein.”

The first Mueller scope memo was part of Mueller’s appointment order by Rosenstein on May 17, 2017, just over a week after President Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey. Rosenstein authorized Mueller to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump.”

The second Mueller scope memo, also written by Rosenstein and issued on Aug. 2, 2017, authorized Mueller to investigate allegations against former Trump campaign associate Carter Page, former Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn, former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. It contained a yet-redacted target as well.

The third Mueller scope memo was described in Mueller’s report, which noted that it expanded Mueller’s investigation to include “the pertinent activities” of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, longtime Trump associate Roger Stone, former Trump deputy campaign manager Rick Gates, and two people whose names are redacted for reasons of “Personal Privacy.”

Those names remained redacted in Wednesday’s release of the memo itself.

Mueller’s report claimed that the third scope memo also “described an FBI investigation opened before the Special Counsel’s appointment into ‘allegations that [then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions] made false statements to the United States Senate’ and confirmed the Special Counsel’s authority to investigate that matter.” Those Sessions details remained entirely redacted when the memo was released on Wednesday.

Mueller’s report concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 election in a “sweeping and systematic fashion,” but it “did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government.”

DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report criticized the Justice Department and the FBI for at least 17 “significant errors and omissions” related to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants against Page and for the bureau’s reliance on the Democrat-funded discredited dossier compiled by British ex-spy Christopher Steele.

Declassified footnotes from Horowitz’s report indicate that the bureau became aware that Steele’s dossier might have been compromised by Russian disinformation, and FBI interviews show Steele’s primary sub-source undercut the credibility of the dossier. A declassified FBI spreadsheet showed a lack of corroboration for the dossier’s biggest claims.

Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd sent a letter to Senate Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson in response to the senator’s July letter to Attorney General William Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray, telling the Wisconsin Republican that the Justice Department was handing over the scope memo along with FBI reports on interviews it conducted with former DOJ official Bruce Ohr.

Boyd told the senator that “today’s submission is based on extraordinary and unique circumstances, and should not be construed as precedent setting in any regard.”

“For far too long information regarding the Democrats’ attempt to sabotage the Trump administration has remained hidden from the public,” Johnson said in a Wednesday statement making the records public. “Today, in an effort to be fully transparent, I am releasing these DOJ and FBI documents I recently received because the American people deserve to know the truth and have a right to see this information.”

The newly released third scope memo was divided into five main sections, noting, “The Special Counsel has identified additional individuals whose conduct he should investigate in order to fulfill his responsibilities as set forth in the appointment order.”

The first section related to “individuals whose conduct is directly within the scope of the investigation” and claimed that the special counsel’s office had “provided sufficient information to establish that the conduct of additional individuals other than those named in the classified memorandum should be investigated” in the Trump-Russia inquiry and asked Rosenstein to “confirm” Mueller’s authority to investigate Cohen, Gates, Stone, and two redacted names.

The second section related to “individuals who are possibly engaged in jointly undertaken activity pertaining to authorized matters” and specifically requested confirmation of the authority to investigate Manafort, Gates, Flynn, and Flynn’s ex-business associates Bijan Rafikian and Ekim Alptekin.

The third section aimed squarely at Cohen and whether his Essential Consultants business was used to “receive funds from Russian-backed entities.”

The fourth section remains entirely redacted, while the fifth section stated that “the matters over which the Special Counsel seeks to confirm investigative authority are sufficiently predicated and appropriately within the scope of your appointment order” and that “centralizing the investigation of the identified matters with the Special Counsel for the time being will lead to a more timely and credible resolution of the investigation.”

Rosenstein’s signature on the Schools-authored memo appears at the bottom.

Horowitz’s December report noted that Steele’s “Primary Sub-source made statements during his/her January 2017 FBI interview that were inconsistent with multiple sections of the Steele reports.” Horowitz also said that Steele’s main source “contradicted the allegations of a ‘well-developed conspiracy’ in” Steele’s dossier. Recently declassified documents also show the FBI had previously investigated Steele’s main source as a possible “threat to national security.”

U.S. Attorney John Durham is investigating the origins and conduct of the Trump-Russia investigation.

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