DOJ mum about which U.S. Attorney's Office is partnering with FBI on Russia-Trump investigation


The U.S. Department of Justice refused to identify which Federal prosecutors' office was working in partnership with the Federal Bureau of Investigation on a confirmed investigation to determine whether the Russian Federation interfered in the 2016 U.S. election cycle. Whenever FBI agents work on a criminal investigation, their purpose is to, in part, apprehend perpetrators and to collect evidence, as needed, for a prosecution of the perpetrators, according to the U.S. Attorney General's Guidelines for Domestic FBI Operations. Because the purpose includes the collection of evidence to support a prosecution, FBI agents are expected to work in "close coöperation and coördination" with applicable U.S. Attorneys' Offices and with the DOJ to provide prosecutorial assistance or to seek approvals. In response to a request made by Progress Queens, Marc Raimondi, a national security spokesperson for the DOJ, refused to answer advance questions. The silence included refusing to identify which U.S. Attorney's Office was working with the FBI on the reported Russian investigation. Separately, the press office for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan did not answer advance questions submitted by Progress Queens for this report.

FBI Director James Comey, Jr., on Monday morning testified before the House Intelligence Committee that an active Federal investigation has existed since July 2016 to determine whether the Russian Federation interfered in the 2016 U.S. election cycle. The investigation includes aspects to determine if there were any ties between the campaign of President Donald Trump with such alleged interference.

"I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian Government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. And that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian Government and whether there was any coördination between the campaign and Russia's efforts," Mr. Comey said, in part, according to a statement of his testimony.

The issue of which Federal prosecutor's office is partnering with the FBI may be material to increased understanding about why U.S. Attorney General Jefferson Sessions III requested on 10 March the resignation of then-U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, alongst with other holdover U.S. Attorneys appointed by former President Barack Obama. When President-elect Trump had been working on his transition to power, he met with then U.S. Attorney Bharara and reportedly assured the former top Federal prosecutor of New York's southern district that he would continue serving in office during the Trump administration. Then, in an about-face, U.S. Attorney Bharara was inexplicable asked to resign. When U.S. Attorney Bharara refused to resign, he was fired. In subsequent press reports, it has been alleged that U.S. Attorney Bharara may have been investigating officials with the Trump administration. One such report, published by Pro Publica, reported that Federal prosecutors in the office of former U.S. Attorney Bharara were investigating suspicious stock transactions made by U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Thomas Price. Another press report indicated that Federal prosecutors in the office of former U.S. Attorney Bharara were also investigating Fox News over possible irregularities surrounding settlement payments. Some critics of the Trump administration have speculated that the purge at the DOJ came at a time when there may have been motivation by the Trump White House to hobble Federal investigations of Trump administration officials, such as Mr. Price, or of political allies, such as executives at Fox News. Just days before former U.S. Attorney Bharara was dismissed, he was publicly asked by advocates for Government reform to investigate possible violations by President Trump of the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The other U.S. Attorney's Office with jurisdiction in New York City is the one based in Brooklyn. It was formerly headed by U.S. Attorney Robert Capers, who stepped down when U.S. Attorney General Sessions made the call for resignations. The Federal prosecutors in the office of former U.S. Attorney Capers were briefly caught in a legal tussle between former Acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates and President Trump when the former top acting DOJ official ordered Federal attorneys to not defend the first controversial Muslim travel ban enacted by Executive Order by President Trump. After the DOJ refused to take orders from the White House, President Trump fired former Acting U.S. Attorney General Yates. The wider purge at the DOJ followed aspersions cast by a Fox News Channel talk show host, Sean Hannity, that Obama-era holdover appointments at the DOJ were "saboteurs" whose intentions were to hurt President Trump, according to a report published by The New York Times.

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