Rod Rosenstein testifying before the Senate, June 3. Photo: Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told special counsel Robert Mueller in May 2017 to only conduct a criminal investigation of possible coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, secretly curtailing an FBI counterintelligence probe into President Trump's ties to Russia, the New York Times' Mike Schmidt reports.

Why it matters: Acting FBI director Andrew McCabe had approved the opening of the counterintelligence investigation out of concerns that Trump's decades of personal and financial dealings in Russia posed a national security threat. Rosenstein, concluding that the probe lacked justification and that McCabe had conflicts of interest, never informed him of the decision.

What they're saying: "We opened this case in May 2017 because we had information that indicated a national security threat might exist, specifically a counterintelligence threat involving the president and Russia,” McCabe told the Times in a statement.

  • "I expected that issue and issues related to it would be fully examined by the special counsel team. If a decision was made not to investigate those issues, I am surprised and disappointed. I was not aware of that.”
  • Rosenstein declined to comment.

The big picture: Because Mueller — who secured more than 30 indictments but did not find sufficient evidence of a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia — did not conduct a counterintelligence investigation, Democrats say the full scope of Trump's Russia ties remains unknown.

  • In an analysis released last week, House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said his committee has reason to believe that "the FBI Counterintelligence Division has not investigated counterintelligence risks arising from President Trump’s foreign financial ties."
  • House Democrats are engaged in legal battles over their attempts to obtain Trump's financial records from Deutsche Bank and other institutions.
  • The concerns come as intelligence officials have assessed that Russia is again attempting to interfere in the 2020 elections to support Trump and denigrate his opponent Joe Biden.

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Dave Lawler, author of World
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