Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein generated a lot of buzz but little clarity Thursday night with a statement urging Americans to “exercise caution” when evaluating stories attributed to anonymous officials.
Why Rosenstein would suddenly make that comment, or any comment, after having made no comment to story after story attributed to anonymous sources, remained a mystery.
The full statement read:
Americans should exercise caution before accepting as true any stories attributed to anonymous ‘officials,’ particularly when they do not identify the country — let alone the branch of agency of government — with which the alleged sources supposedly are affiliated. Americans should be skeptical about anonymous allegations. The Department of Justice has a long established policy to neither confirm nor deny such allegations.
Since Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself, Rosenstein is the Justice Department official directly responsible for matters relating to the investigation of Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election of 2016, including any possible role played by people associated with Donald Trump’s campaign.
The statement follows several stories in the past few days in The Washington Post and New York Times quoting unnamed sources on the direction of the probe, now in the hands of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
The most explosive was a June 14 report in The Post that Mueller’s probe “now includes an examination of whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice.” On June 15, before Rosenstein’s statement, The Post reported that Mueller is also investigating the “finances and business dealings of Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and adviser.”
In response to the stories, Trump, in tweets, expressed frustration, saying he is the target of “the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history.”
Rosenstein’s statement started a whole new round of speculation as people attempted to divine its meaning, its timing and its purpose, whether or not it was meant to discredit some particular story, all stories generally or some future story yet to be published.
“The Rosenstein statement suggests there must be a heck of a Trump story coming based on alleged information from anonymous foreign officials,” tweeted conservative commentator Bill Kristol.
Some wondered, without any evidence, whether the statement was the result of pressure from the White House. Others dismissed that possibility.
“I would put that Rosenstein statement more in the ‘giving Trump enough rope’ bucket than in the ‘succumbing to pressure’ bucket,” tweeted Matt Yglesias of Vox.
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