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Deputy AG Rosenstein sends out an odd warning about “anonymous” press leaks

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein Testifies To Committee On Justice Dept.'s Budget Zach Gibson/Getty Images

A day after press reports of new revelations in the Russia investigation, the Justice Department warned Americans in an official statement to be skeptical of reports that rely on information from anonymous sources. The warning came seemingly out of nowhere, and did not gesture toward any report in particular. But it did come in the midst of a two-day running twitter rant from President Donald Trump about the Russia investigation.

On Thursday night, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein released the following statement:

Americans should exercise caution before accepting as true any stories attributed to anonymous 'officials,' particularly when they do not identify the country — let alone the branch or agency of government — with which the alleged sources supposedly are affiliated. Americans should be skeptical about anonymous allegations. The Department of Justice has a long-standing policy to neither confirm or deny such allegations.

Although Rosenstein didn’t mention any specific media reports, it appears it could be in response to a Washington Post story published Wednesday, alleging that the special counsel in the Russia probe is investigating President Trump for potential obstruction of justice, related to his firing of then-FBI Director James Comey. The story relies on information from five anonymous officials, without mentioning what agencies they work for or what level of seniority they have.

But, given the succession and nature of recent leaks, the statement could also be in anticipation of a story that will break soon, one that the Department of Justice was notified of, and decided to preempt this way.

Wednesday’s Washington Post article caused a firestorm in the White House on Thursday, particularly because President Trump had been trying so hard to prove that he was not a focus of the Russia investigation. Trump lashed out on Twitter, calling the news a “witch hunt” and a “phony story.”

On Friday morning — still upset — Trump berated the press again.

Less than an hour later, Trump sent out another tweet, this one aimed directly at Rosenstein. Trump was reviving his claim that Rosenstein urged him to fire Comey in a memo, though Trump himself disputed this reasoning shortly after in an interview with NBC News’s Lester Holt, in which he said “regardless of the recommendation, I was going to fire Comey.”

Read: Everything we know about President Trump’s obstruction of justice scandal