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 biggest names involved in the Trump-Russia investigation
The biggest names involved in the Trump-Russia investigation
1/11 Paul Manafort
Mr Manafort is a Republican strategist and former Trump campaign manager. He resigned from that post over questions about his extensive lobbying overseas, including in Ukraine where he represented pro-Russian interests.
2/11 Mike Flynn
Mr Flynn was named as Trump's national security adviser but was forced to resign from his post for inappropriate communication with Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak. He had misrepresented a conversation he had with Mr Kislyak to Vice President Mike Pence, telling him wrongly that he had not discussed sanctions with the Russian.
3/11 Sergey Kislyak
Mr Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the US, is at the centre of the web said to connect President Donald Trump's campaign with Russia.
4/11 Roger Stone
Mr Stone is a former Trump adviser who worked on the political campaigns of Richard Nixon, George HW Bush, and Ronald Reagan. Mr Stone claimed repeatedly in the final months of the campaign that he had backchannel communications with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and that he knew the group was going to dump damaging documents to the campaign of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton - which did happen. Mr Stone also had contacts with the hacker Guccier 2.0 on Twitter, who claimed to have hacked the DNC and is linked to Russian intelligence services.
5/11 Jeff Sessions
The US attorney general was forced to recuse himself from the Trump-Russia investigation after it was learned that he had lied about meeting with Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak.
6/11 Carter Page
Mr Page is a former advisor to the Trump campaign and has a background working as an investment banker at Merrill Lynch. Mr Page met with Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak during the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Mr Page had invested in oil companies connected to Russia and had admitted that US Russia sanctions had hurt his bottom line.
7/11 Jeffrey "JD" Gorden
Mr Gordon met with Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak during the 2016 Republian National Convention to discuss how the US and Russia could work together to combat Islamist extremism should then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump win the election. The meeting came days before a massive leak of DNC emails that has been connected to Russia.
8/11 Jared Kushner
Mr Kushner is President Donald Trump's son-in-law and a key adviser to the White House. He met with a Russian banker appointed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in December. Mr Kushner has said he did so in his role as an adviser to Mr Trump while the bank says he did so as a private developer. Mr Kushner has also volunteered to testify in the Senate about his role helping to arrange meetings between Trump advisers and Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak.
9/11 James Comey
Mr Comey was fired from his post as head of the FBI by President Donald Trump. The timing of Mr Comey's firing raised questions around whether or not the FBI's investigation into the Trump campaign may have played a role in the decision.
10/11 Preet Bharara
Mr Bahara refused, alongside 46 other US district attorney's across the country, to resign once President Donald Trump took office after previous assurances from Mr Trump that he would keep his job. Mr Bahara had been heading up several investigations including one into one of President Donald Trump's favorite cable television channels Fox News. Several investigations would lead back to that district, too, including those into Mr Trump's campaign ties to Russia, and Mr Trump's assertion that Trump Tower was wiretapped on orders from his predecessor.
11/11 Sally Yates
Ms Yates, a former Deputy Attorney General, was running the Justice Department while President Donald Trump's pick for attorney general awaited confirmation. Ms Yates was later fired by Mr Trump from her temporary post over her refusal to implement Mr Trump's first travel ban. She had also warned the White House about potential ties former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to Russia after discovering those ties during the FBI's investigation into the Trump campaign's connections to Russia.
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.Reuse content