Commentary by: Tracy Beanz
After months of talk before various pundits and news media, Lindsey Graham (R, SC) finally held his first hearing on all things SpyGate. Since becoming chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he has come under fire for doing very little, while talking a whole lot.
Rod Rosenstein was the first witness called, although Graham has said he will subpoena many others. That seems to have been placed on hold, at least in the short term. But why Rod? What makes him an important first witness, and what exactly happened in the hearing?
The Lead Up
As the Deputy Attorney General, sworn in on April 25, 2017, Rod Rosenstein entered the DOJ at a time of much consternation. The Crossfire Hurricane investigation was well underway, there was an active FISA warrant on a former Trump campaign staffer, and the President was very unhappy with his FBI director. The FBI had an ongoing criminal investigation into the Presidents former NSD, who by all accounts and purposes they had gotten fired, and the Attorney General had recused himself from all matters pertaining to Russia.
One of the first actions he took was to write a letter recommending the firing of then FBI Director, James Comey. The second action he took was to begin to interview, and eventually hire, the person who would run the Special Counsel investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 election. That person turned out to be Robert Mueller. There's a great article on UncoverDC about the meetings in the days leading up to this that you should read here.
The way John Dowd, former attorney for President Trump during the Special Counsel investigation tells it, nearly everyone was absolutely stunned to learn of the appointment of a Special Counsel, including Jeff Sessions. In his interview with Byron York, he explains how Rod Rosenstein expected to be fired, and cowered in his office after the announcement was made. You can listen to his full interview here, and I suggest you do.
It left many wondering just what Rod Rosenstein's motives were. After all, we knew at the latest in March of 2017 that the Steele Dossier had been funded by the DNC via Perkins Coie, and we knew that the FBI had payed Steele as a source at the same time as that was occurring. That didn't stop Rod Rosenstein from signing the third and final renewal of the Carter Page FISA warrant in June, the application of which almost solely relied on information found in the dossier, and sending the Mueller Special Counsel on a witch hunt through every last person in the Trump sphere.
So what exactly was Rod Rosenstein doing?
Why Rod Rosenstein?
You'll hear lots of opinions on Rod Rosenstein, ranging from the theory that he was a "white hat", someone always on the President's side, maneuvering through the "swamp" and cleansing it of it's creatures, to the argument that he is evil and has always been corrupt, and he was just playing a role, to a bit of a mix of the two. No matter what you think he was doing before, its clear what his role is now. Rod Rosenstein is clearly a fixer for the DOJ.
If you listened to the entire hearing the other day, kudos! There is a lot we can pull and analyze from the questions and their responses. However, you didn't need to listen much further than Rod Rosenstein's opening statement, and Lindsey Graham's first questions to understand precisely what Rod was doing sitting in front of the committee.
First and foremost, and missed by many, Rosenstein appeared under oath before a Senate Committee without an attorney. With an ongoing investigation into this entire mess being led by a large and growing team of US Attorney's under the direction of John Durham, and the way certain members of the DOJ like to throw out perjury charges (just ask Roger Stone, George Papadopoulos and General Michael Flynn), you would think if Rod were in any legal jeopardy for any of his actions that A. he would have an attorney with him, and B. that attorney would've advised that their client not answer certain questions. He came voluntarily and for one reason: to shift all focus to the FBI and off of the Department of Justice.
Once we get that out of the way, the beginning of this says it all. The opening statement by Rosenstein shifts the blame for his signature of the FISA warrant right to the FBI, and then takes the blame for indictments under the Mueller probe and shifts them to the "appropriate divisions". He also attempts to explain why he appointed a Special Counsel by again placing blame on the FBI- that he didn't feel they would handle the investigation correctly. That doesn't pass muster for reasons I will explain in a moment. He tells us that he was concerned that the public wouldn't have confidence in the investigation, and that the acting FBI director (Andrew McCabe) wasn't the right person to lead it. A Special Counsel, Rod says, was "the best way to make sure the investigation was completed properly, and to promote confidence in its conclusion".
Many folks point to this and say "See! He took this away from the corrupt FBI! He gave to to someone outside to stop McCabe!!" Sorry, and not to burst a bubble, but the team that had been working on the Crossfire Hurricane investigation moved right on over to the Mueller investigation, and then Mueller appointed a few more democrat partisans to sweeten the pot. If the idea behind the SC was to take it out of the hands of the Bureau, bringing Peter Strzok and Lisa Page along for the ride really wasn't a great way to "promote confidence".
Another interesting thing to come from the opening statement, was that he said he asked the Special Counsel to review each criminal allegation the FBI considered relevant to Russian election influence. The problem with that? Take a look at what is in the scope memo Rod Rosenstein "wrote" to direct the investigation. I have highlighted the relevant sections.
Those don't look like "Russian Interference" to me. Oh, wait! Surprise! We learn shortly thereafter during questioning from Lindsey Graham that none of this was Rosenstein or the DOJ's fault either. He let the Mueller team and former Crossfire Hurricane team draft this nifty scope memo. He didn't have anything to do with it. It was all the FBI who had this investigation ongoing, directing the scope of the investigation, using the Special Counsel that Rod Rosenstein says he appointed to make sure that the investigation was completed properly. After all, McCabe couldn't handle this.
Look, if you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you somewhere.
He then shifts to the FISA warrant renewal and FISA in general. He says (emphasis mine):
"I understand today's hearing may focus on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. When I served as DAG, every FBI FISA application was written by agents and attorneys, reviewed by supervisors, sworn under oath by a federal agent, and certified by the FBI director. Before any application was submitted a senior department employee, either the AG, the DAG, or the AAG for National Security, met with NSD supervisors to ensure that the application set forth a valid legal and factual basis. Ultimately, each application was submitted to a federal judge who decided whether it set forth probable cause that justified the issuance of a warrant. Every application I approved, appeared to be justified based on the facts it alleged. And the FBI was supposed to be following protocols to ensure that every fact was verified. But reviews found that the FBI was not following protocols, and significant errors appeared in applications filed in connection with the Crossfire Hurricane investigation. The IG concluded and I quote- that so many errors were made, by 3 hand picked teams, on one of the FBI’s most sensitive investigations, that FBI officials expected would be subject to close scrutiny raise significant questions, regarding the FBI chain of commands management, and supervision of the FISA process."
I don't think I have to explain much here, other than to say that he contradicts himself at the end. If this was one of the most sensitive investigations, that was supposed to be held to close scrutiny, why wasn't the Department of Justice applying that same level of scrutiny? Is it only the FBI who is supposed to be applying a high level of scrutiny to a counterintelligence and then criminal investigation into the campaign of a Republican Presidential Nominee and then the President himself?
It is very clear what is happening here, and it is evidenced throughout. Rod Rosenstein has been assigned by someone, to march out and take all blame from the Department of Justice and place it squarely on the shoulders of the FBI. It means that we are supposed to take him at his word, and excuse the culpability of the DOJ in the case of General Flynn. Excuse the culpability of the DOJ in the Carter Page FISA warrants and subsequent renewals. Ignore the unmasking requests, the potential leaking, the appointment of the Special Counsel.
Rod Rosenstein is the fixer for the DOJ. To believe that he was completely absolved of all culpability in any of these actions, is to be in complete denial of all information we have before us.
I loved reading the amazing book by Lee Smith "The Plot Against the President: The True Story of How Congressman Devin Nunes Uncovered the Biggest Political Scandal in U.S. History". Without giving too much of it away, at the end of the book Lee recounts the press conference that Attorney General Barr had at the conclusion of the Mueller Investigation, as the report was being released to the world for the first time. He talks about why Rod Rosenstein was mentioned so much within it.
AG Barr makes a point to take Rod Rosenstein on the ride of his life. Rod was standing behind Barr as he announced that both he and Rosenstein decided there wasn't any obstruction of justice by the President in firing James Comey, or in any other instance, for that matter. Take a look at this video. He has gotten his marching orders. He is going to follow them.
Tracy Beanz is the Founder and Editor in Chief at UncoverDC. You can follow her on Twitter @TracyBeanz