Trump's Deputy Attorney General issues bizarre statement warning against 'anonymous sources'

Washington, DC veterans call the statement 'extraordinary'

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The Independent US

An unusual statement from the Department of Justice has many in Washington scratching their heads.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein recently issued a statement telling Americans to be “sceptical about anonymous allegations”.

“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 government – with which the alleged sources supposedly are affiliated,” he said.

The statement – which came without context or reference to any story in particular – left many feeling confused. Some suggested the statement signalled an upcoming scoop, while others thought it was made at the behest of the White House.

“What an odd statement - that feels consistent with the White House's recent war on leaks,” Jonathan Lemire, White House reporter for The Associated Press, tweeted.

The statement is indeed in keeping with President Donald Trump’s rhetoric about anonymous leaks, which he has called “fabricated lies” and falsely deemed “illegal”.

“The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by ‘intelligence’ like candy,” Mr Trump tweeted in February. “Very un-American!”

The Trump White House has been subject to numerous embarrassing leaks since the firing of former FBI Director James Comey. Anonymous leakers have claimed Mr Trump asked his former FBI director to pledge his loyalty, and pressured him to drop an investigation into one of his former staffers – allegations Mr Comey confirmed in his Senate testimony.

The latest such leak came via The Washington Post, which reported on Wednesday that the Justice Department is investigating Mr Trump for obstruction of justice. The Post cited five anonymous individuals briefed on the interview requests for the investigation.

The news caused Mr Trump to lash out about the investigation – and seemingly confirm its existence.

“I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director!” he tweeted. “Witch Hunt.”

The tweet may be a reference to Mr Rosenstein, who previously wrote a memo supporting Mr Comey’s firing and is now assisting in the Justice Department’s investigation. Mr Rosenstein has reportedly told colleagues he may need to recuse himself from that investigation.

The statements from both men come as Washington struggles to make sense of investigations into the Trump campaign's potential ties to Russia – and the White House's ever-changing response to those investigations. But Adam Blickstein, the former Pentagon public affairs strategic planner, says the recent statements are "extraordinary" even in this context. 

“Rosenstein puts out an incredibly bizarre statement that reads more like a muddled Trump speech than a DOJ release. Meanwhile Trump himself confirmed he’s under FBI investigation for obstruction of justice, an investigation Rosenstein may need to recuse himself from given he's potentially a key witness," Mr Blickstein told The Independent

"The bottom line is someone who claims to definitively know what this all means or where the news cycle will be in 24 hours also likely thinks 'The Mummy' will win Best Picture at next years’ Oscars," he added.