Trump has options if he wants to exert control over the Russia investigation, but it won’t help him

Donald Trump.

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Donald Trump.
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Drew Angerer/Getty Images

  • President Donald Trump said he is “totally allowed” to take over the ongoing Russia investigation.
  • In an interview with Reuters published on Monday, Trump said, “I’ve decided to stay out … Now I don’t have to stay out … I could run it if I want.”
  • Special counsel Robert Mueller is currently leading the Russia probe. He was appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
  • Constitutional law experts say Trump has options if he wants to exert control over the Russia probe, but those options likely won’t bode well for him in the long run.

President Donald Trump said in an interview with Reuters that he could take control over the ongoing Russia investigation if he chooses.

“I’ve decided to stay out,” Trump told the newswire service in a story published Monday. “Now, I don’t have to stay out … I could run it if I want,” the president said.

Special counsel Robert Mueller is currently leading the Russia probe. He was appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in May 2017. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is not involved in any part of the investigation. He recused himself from all Russia-related matters, because of meetings he had with Russian diplomats during the 2016 election.

Constitutional law experts say Trump has some options if he wants to exert control over the Russia investigation.

“He’d have to convince Rosenstein or Sessions to change the rules around who controls this, or he’d have to fire Sessions or Rosenstein and find someone who is willing to do what he wanted,” Sam Erman, a University of Southern California professor who specializes in constitutional law, told Business Insider on Monday.

Trump has frequently attacked Sessions and Rosenstein, either by publicly accusing Rosenstein of political bias, or criticizing Sessions’ decision to recuse himself, and painting him as ineffective.

Mueller’s investigation aims to uncover the extent of Russian meddling in the 2016 US election, which was allegedly executed to help Trump win. Prosecutors are also examining any potential cooperation between the Trump campaign and Russia, and whether Trump obstructed justice after the Russia investigation began.

Rebecca Brown, a Supreme Court and constitutional law expert at USC, said that while Trump has the authority to give orders to the Justice Department, there are conditions attached. “There is a longstanding tradition that the DOJ will be independent of the White House, most especially, of course, when the White House is under investigation,” Brown told Business Insider in an email.

“But even if not, law-enforcement is not supposed to be used for political or partisan purposes,” Brown added.

Trump has ratcheted up his attacks on the Russia probe in the last few months, and has tweeted about the investigation dozens of times since June.

Erman says, because Trump has made clear his position about the probe – that he is innocent of any wrongdoing and that the investigation is, as the president calls it, a “witch hunt,” the idea of Trump exerting control over it would not likely be well-received.

“It’s hard to see how anybody can be the judge in their own case, much less him,” Erman said.