- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Justice Department’s indictment of 12 Russians for election interference just before President Trump met with Vladimir Putin drew condemnation from some conservatives who viewed the timing as suspicious, but it was Mr. Trump himself who approved when the charges would be announced, according to a media report Wednesday.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein met with Mr. Trump last week and offered him the choice of announcing the indictments before or after his Monday summit with Mr. Putin in Helsinki, according to a report by Bloomberg. Mr. Trump chose to announce the indictments ahead of the meeting because he thought it would give him strength negotiating with Mr. Putin, the story said.

The charges against the Russians were brought by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is also investigating whether members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to interfere with the election. Despite the probe, Mr. Rosenstein was able to brief the president about ongoing grand jury proceedings because of a national security exception, Bloomberg reported.

A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment to Bloomberg.

Mr. Rosenstein, while announcing the indictments, told reporters that he had briefed the president earlier in the week and Mr. Trump was “fully aware of the department’s actions.” He did not say if he had given Mr. Trump a choice on when to announce the indictments.

When asked if Trump supported releasing the indictments, Rosenstein replied, “I’ll let the president speak for himself.”

Conservatives nearly unilaterally blasted the Justice Department for announcing the indictments just before Mr. Trump’s meeting with Mr. Putin. Some accused the Justice Department of playing partisan politics and disrupting the summit.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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