Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testified Wednesday that he would not have signed a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant renewal for former Trump campaign aide Carter Page had he known about the since-revealed misconduct surrounding those warrants -- while faulting the FBI for its handling of the documents.
Rosenstein confirmed that he signed a FISA warrant renewal application for Page, during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee where he was the first witness as part of the panel’s fresh investigation into the origins of the Russia probe.
"If you knew then what you know now, would you have signed the warrant application?" committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S. C., asked Rosenstein.
"No, I would not," Rosenstein said.
Rosenstein, in his opening statement, defended his own actions related to the FISA warrant, saying that “every application I approved appeared to be justified based on the facts it alleged.” Rosenstein implicitly pointed the finger at the FBI for since-revealed problems in that process.
“The FBI was supposed to be following protocols to ensure that every fact was verified,” Rosenstein said, going on to cite Justice Department inspector general findings last year revealing that the FBI actually “was not following the written protocols, and that ‘significant errors’ appeared in applications filed in connection with the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.”
Rosenstein repeatedly claimed to be unaware of details that have since been used by critics to raise questions about the probe. Rosenstein said he "obviously didn’t know there was exculpatory evidence" with regard to the origins of the Russia investigation, including details about Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos.
Rosenstein also noted that “one of the most important matters” during his time at the Justice Department as deputy attorney general was the “investigation of Russian election influence schemes.”
He defended his handling of that process, including the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
“Attorney General Sessions had complied with a legal obligation to recuse himself from that investigation,” Rosenstein said, referring to former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the probe due to his involvement with the Trump campaign in 2016. “As a result of events that followed the departure of the FBI Director, I was concerned that the public would not have confidence in the investigation and that the acting FBI Director was not the right person to lead it.” Rosenstein had recommended Trump remove James Comey as director, effectively making his deputy, Andrew McCabe, the leader of the bureau.
“I decided that appointing a Special Counsel was the best way to complete the investigation appropriately and promote public confidence in its conclusions,” Rosenstein said, noting that the appointment of Mueller was “consistent with Department of Justice precedent.”
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“I asked the Special Counsel to review each criminal allegation the FBI considered relevant to Russian election influence operations and recommended whether to close the matter; investigate because it might be relevant to Russian election meddling; or refer the matter to another prosecutor,” Rosenstein explained, noting that he ensured that Mueller had to go through a “supervisory chain of command” with “highly qualified” DOJ attorneys and officials.
“Crossfire Hurricane” is the FBI’s internal code name for the bureau’s original investigation into whether members of the Trump campaign were colluding with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election. That investigation was launched by the FBI in July 2016. Mueller's team eventually announced that it found no evidence of criminal conspiracy or coordination.
Rosenstein also said that “wheneve... (Read more)
.@SenMikeLee: "The omission of [material information] had you been aware of it probably would have been grounds for termination."— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) June 3, 2020
Mr. Rosenstein: "If I had asked [McCabe] and he misrepresented it, yes." pic.twitter.com/7s4dNDh1tQ
Submitted 41 days ago