Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein assured President Donald Trump that he’s not a target of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation during a meeting last Thursday, according to Bloomberg.
The disclosure reportedly caused Trump to abandon any thoughts of firing Rosenstein or Mueller to end the investigation, which he has repeatedly decried as a “witch hunt.”
Trump’s transition in recent months toward aggressively attacking the special counsel and Justice Department has prompted widespread concern among lawmakers of both parties that he would resort to firing the pair.
Former FBI director James Comey said “I don’t know what it means” when asked about the significance of Rosenstein’s disclosure during a Thursday afternoon interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper.
“It is a fairly standard part of any investigation — trying to decide whether a person you’re encountering is a witness, a subject or a target,” Comey said. “A target is someone about whom an investigation and a grand jury “developed significant evidence — evidence sufficient to charge.”
Comey made a similar disclosure to Trump in March of last year, telling the president that he wasn’t a target of Mueller’s investigation. Trump at that point asked Comey to share that information publicly to “lift the cloud” of suspicion hanging over him. The former FBI director’s refusal to do so led, at least in part, to his firing, Trump later admitted.
While Rosenstein assured Trump he was not officially a target as of their conversation, he may become one later in the investigation, a “U.S. official with knowledge of the unfolding investigation” told Bloomberg.