What is the Rosenstein memo, and what might we learn if the DOJ releases all of it?
Both Republicans and Democrats are hoping the memo would give ammunition to their side of the Russia investigation.
The Justice Department might release portions of the "Rosenstein memo," the August 2017 letter Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein wrote to special counsel Robert Mueller detailing the scope of his investigation into the Trump campaign's potential collusion with Russia during the 2016 election.
A redacted version of the memo was issued last month in a case against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. The conservative group Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act requesting the full memo be released. This week, the group issued a press release saying the DOJ is considering it.
Some conservatives, including Manafort and President Trump, argue that Mueller is exceeding his authority. Because of Mueller's findings, Manafort has been indicted by a federal grand jury on 18 charges including conspiracy against the United States, bank fraud and money laundering related to his consulting work for a pro-Russian government in Ukraine. He has asked Judge T.S. Ellis III to dismiss all charges.
The public version of the "Rosenstein memo" showed that Rosenstein authorized Mueller to look into whether Manafort had been “colluding with Russian government officials” to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. According to the Boston Globe, the redactions apparently detail other issues that Mueller is allowed to investigate.
It's unclear if any of that additional information will be released. Both supporters and opponents of the Mueller probe are hoping the redacted portion will support their side — that Mueller is proceeding within scope, or that the investigation is overbroad.
"We are pleased, especially after Judge Ellis’s hearing, that our lawsuit is causing the Justice Department to rethink its cover-up of the ‘scope memo’ for Mueller,” said Judicial Watch's president Tom Fitton. “Judicial Watch has never before seen this level of secrecy and cover-up surrounding the operation of a special or independent counsel.”
Rosenstein's original May 2017 order commissioning Mueller as special counsel instructed him to investigate "(i) any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump; and (ii) any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation."