The Department of Justice in 2017 narrowed the scope of its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, cutting short a probe into President TrumpDonald TrumpYoungkin ad features mother who pushed to have 'Beloved' banned from son's curriculum White House rejects latest Trump claim of executive privilege Democrats say GOP lawmakers implicated in Jan. 6 should be expelled MORE’s business ties to Moscow, The New York Times reported.
Then-Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinWashington still needs more transparency House Judiciary to probe DOJ's seizure of data from lawmakers, journalists The Hill's Morning Report - Biden-Putin meeting to dominate the week MORE limited the investigation to exclude those ties without telling the FBI, according to the Times. Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeAndrew McCabe's settlement with the Department of Justice is a signal to John Durham Trump criticizes Justice for restoring McCabe's benefits The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - Jan. 6 panel flexes its muscle MORE, who served as deputy FBI director at the time, told the newspaper that Rosenstein did not tell him that he was limiting the probe, leading McCabe to believe special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE would investigate the president's business connections. McCabe added that he would have tasked the FBI with that aspect of the inquiry had he known Mueller would not investigate it.
“We opened this case in May 2017 because we had information that indicated a national security threat might exist, specifically a counterintelligence threat involving the president and Russia,” McCabe told the Times. “I expected that issue and issues related to it would be fully examined by the special counsel team. If a decision was made not to investigate those issues, I am surprised and disappointed. I was not aware of that.”
When he installed Mueller as special counsel in May 2017, Rosenstein gave him the mandate of investigating “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government” and the Trump campaign.
In private, however, Rosenstein directed Mueller to limit his investigation to any lawbreaking in connection with Russian election interference, the Times reported, citing former law enforcement officials.
Journalist Jeffrey Toobin, who first reported the conversation for a book, wrote that Rosenstein warned Mueller against a “fishing expedition” similar to Ken Starr's investigation into President Clinton.
“This is a criminal investigation. Do your job, and then shut it down,” Toobin quotes Rosenstein as saying.
As a result, Mueller built a team that predominantly investigated crimes rather than national security threats, McCabe told the Times, even though it was “first and foremost a counterintelligence case.”
The Hill has reached out to the Justice Department for comment.