Rep. DeSantis’s Amendment to Spending Bill Would Rein in Special Counsel’s Russia Probe

Russia Probe SAUL LOEBAFPGETTY IMAGES
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Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) hopes to put an end to the FBI probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S presidential election and the possible ties between the Trump campaign staff and Moscow through an amendment he hopes to add to the spending bill Congress will craft in September to keep the federal government operating.

“Congress should use the upcoming appropriations bills to establish clear limits to the scope and duration of the special counsel investigation,” DeSantis wrote in op-ed published by Fox on Thursday.

The one-page amendment would stop funding the investigation 180 days after it becomes law and would restrict the investigation of any event that took place before June, 2015 — the date President Donald Trump announced he was throwing his hat into the ring.

In May, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the investigation into the Russia debacle, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein tapped former FBI director Robert Mueller to head up the investigation.

“I determined that it is on the public interest for me to exercise my authority and appoint a special counsel to assume responsibility for this matter,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in announcing his decision. “My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted.”

In his commentary, DeSantis took aim at the Rosenstein’s decision and Mueller’s wide-ranging probe.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein defended against criticism of his handling of the amorphous ‘Russia investigation’ by saying that the Department of Justice ‘doesn’t engage in fishing expeditions,’” DeSantis wrote. “Yet, his clumsy management of this matter is the reason why many Americans are concerned that the investigation lacks focus and will veer into unrelated matters, thereby extending the probe far into the future and hampering the ability of the Trump administration to attend to the people’s business.

Rosenstein’s order appointing Robert Mueller to serve as special counsel failed to enumerate a crime to be investigated; instead, the order cited then-FBI Director James Comey’s March testimony identifying the existence of a counterintelligence investigation focusing on Russia, not a criminal investigation targeting members of the Trump administration,” DeSantis wrote. “The order was defective because DOJ regulations make the existence of a criminal investigation a condition precedent to the appointment of a special counsel.

Moreover, the order was so vague that it places little in the way of substantive limits on the scope or duration of the investigation,” De Santis wrote. “The Rosenstein order is effectively an invitation to conduct a fishing expedition.

DeSantis said the media is really the only party interested in promoting the idea that Trump and his campaign “colluded” with the Russians and that the investigation should have an end date.

The notion that the Trump campaign illegally ‘colluded’ with Russian government agents has always seemed to be more a matter of wishful thinking by the media than something based on hard evidence,” DeSantis wrote. “Imposing a deadline will force the special counsel to put up or shut up: if evidence of criminal activity has not surfaced after what will be nearly two years of investigation (including the pre-special counsel investigation conducted by the FBI), then this investigatory cloud hovering over the Trump administration should be removed.

DeSantis had harsh words for what he called Washington’s “ruling class,” which he said would like to see Trump’s presidency undone. He also criticized the team Mueller has assembled.

“For his part, President Trump is reviled by the Washington ruling class and the appointment of a special counsel is a way for the ‘Swamp’ to seek his presidency’s destruction — through investigative paralysis at least, with no evidence of wrongdoing uncovered.  The inexplicable decision of Special Counsel Mueller to stock his office with Democratic partisans has underscored concerns along these lines,” DeSantis wrote.

DeSantis concluded that when Congress is deciding on what gets funding in next month’s spending bill, it should not “fund fishing expeditions.”

DeSantis is vice chairman of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice.

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