Rod Rosenstein, the veteran Republican prosecutor hand-picked by President Donald Trump to serve as deputy attorney general, personally signed off on Monday’s FBI decision to raid the office of Michael D. Cohen, Trump’s personal attorney and longtime confidant, three government officials said.
The early-morning searches enraged Trump, associates said, setting off an angry public tirade Monday evening that continued in private at the White House as the president fumed about whether he should fire Rosenstein. The episode has deeply unsettled White House aides, Justice Department officials and lawmakers from both parties, who believe the president may use it as a pretext to purge the team leading the investigation into Russia meddling in the 2016 election.
Searching a lawyer’s files is among the most sensitive moves federal prosecutors can make as they pursue a criminal investigation. Rosenstein’s personal involvement in the decision signals that the evidence seen by law enforcement officials was significant enough to persuade the Justice Department’s second-in-command that such an aggressive move was necessary.
Trump’s advisers have spent the last 24 hours trying to convince the president not to make an impulsive decision that could put the president in more legal jeopardy and ignite a controversy that could consume his presidency, several people close to Trump said. The president began Tuesday morning with a pair of angry tweets, calling the raids “A TOTAL WITCH HUNT!” and venting that “attorney–client privilege is dead!”
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SOURCE: The Boston Globe, Michael D. Shear, Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman