Amid rising Republican criticism of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, members of Congress and former prosecutors say the Justice Department has amped up the pressure by putting out information bolstering claims that the investigation is unfairly biased against President Trump. Through what Politico calls “a series of small and sometimes subtle moves,” DOJ’s actions run counter to the goal of keeping Mueller’s probe free of political meddling. Now that Mueller’s investigation has reached into the White House after former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s guilty plea, some say the department is playing both sides of the high-stakes investigation. “I think that it appears to me that DOJ leadership is doing what it can to please their boss, which is ultimately the president of the United States,” said Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor. “They’re doing whatever they can to please him without violating the law.”
This week, Justice officials convened a small media briefing to show reporters private text messages sent between two investigators who formerly served on Mueller’s team. That briefing in the midst of an inspector general investigation was described as ”very odd and unprofessional” by Samuel Buell, a former assistant U.S. attorney and Duke University law school professor. “It shouldn’t surprise anyone that there are people in the political appointee realm at DOJ who are rooting for Mueller to fail,” said Buell. “That doesn’t mean they are going to be prepared to actually try to derail him. It all merits vigilance.” This month, DOJ said it was taking the unusual step of making Mueller tack on an additional $3.5 million in costs in his first budget report, almost doubling the probe’s total spending to $6.7 million, so it could reflect wider department costs that are going toward the Russia investigation.