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Trump claims he can run the Russia investigation — is that true?

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Donald Trump
Donald Trump.
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  • 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.

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