Jun 3, 2020
Rod Rosenstein Testimony Transcript on Russia Investigation
Former United States Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testified before the Senate in a hearing on the Donald Trump Russia Investigation. Read the full transcript of the hearing here.
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Rod Rosenstein: (00:00)
Affidavit signed by a career federal law enforcement officer who swears that the information in the affidavit is true and correct to the best of his knowledge and belief. And that’s the way we operate. And if it’s wrong, sometimes it is. If you find out there’s anything incorrect in there, that person is going to face consequences. Sometimes there are innocent errors, but if not, you can face discipline or potentially even prosecution.
Lindsey Graham: (00:25)
Well, thank you. That was delivered at the Freedom Forum by Mr. Rosenstein, May of 2018. And you described the way the system’s supposed to work. And what brings us here is the fact that it didn’t work that way. We know now based on the Horowitz Report that was delivered to this committee in December 2019 that the FISA warrant application process did not work the way Mr. Rosenstein described it in 2018. What do we know? We know that exculpatory information was withheld from the court. We know according to Mr. Horowitz, without the Steele dossier paid for by the Democratic party prepared by a former British agent working with a Russian sub source, without that dossier, there would have been no warrant issued against Carter Page. We also now know that an email was doctored to get the FISA warrant by a lawyer at the FBI. So why are we here?
Lindsey Graham: (01:25)
We’re trying to find out how that happened. We’re trying to find out how Crossfire Hurricane got so off script. And our desire is to make sure it never happens again. Every American should be concerned by the fact that the Inspector General found criminal wrongdoing, abuse of power, and a warrant application against Carter Page, a advisor to the Trump campaign. And we’re here to try to find out who knew what when. Find out did Mr. Rosenstein, did you know that the sub-source disavowed the dossier in January 2017 to the FBI? Says a bunch of bar talk and hearsay. Did you know that the FBI lawyer doctored an email showing a relationship between Mr. Page and the CIA? He changed it where there was no relationship. Did you know that? And if you didn’t know it, why? And we’re going to ask everybody who signed the warrant, “Did you know?” And if you didn’t know, why? And now that do know, how do you feel about it?
Lindsey Graham: (02:33)
And I want the country to understand that the Mueller investigation was allowed to go forward with bipartisan support. I remember Senator Coons and Booker coming to me and Senator Grassley and Senator Tillis saying, “Let’s make sure that Mueller can do his job without interference.” The President was pretty hot when it came to the Mueller investigation. And we came up with legislation to protect the general counsel from being dismissed without cause. Let the country know, let the President know it was important for Mueller to do his job. Now it’s important to find out what the hell happened. How could it gotten to be where it wound up being? What evidence, if any, was there in May of 2017 when Mueller was appointed by Mr. Rosenstein that anybody on the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians? Was there a lawful predicate to appoint Mueller to begin with?
Lindsey Graham: (03:40)
And we’ll be looking at that. And we’ll be looking at how the warrant was signed over and over by the highest ranking officials in this country and given to a FISA court on four different occasions over a period of months. And it was full of lies and criminally altered. I hope you want to know that. I sure do. And you got to remember the people running the Mueller investigation are the same people that were running Crossfire Hurricane, at least until they got fired. So the warrant application that Mr. Rosenstein signed in June of 2017, the last application against Carter Page, who prepared the application? Remember Strzok and Page? March 3rd, 2016. “God, Trump is a loathsome human being. Strzok, “Oh my God, he’s an idiot.” Strzok, “God, Hillary should win a hundred million to nothing.” These are the people in charge of the Mueller investigation.
Lindsey Graham: (04:52)
The FBI lawyer who altered the email after the election said, “Viva la resistance.” This is the FBI lawyer in charge of overseeing the Mueller investigation. And finally on August 8th, 2016, Page says to Strzok, “He’s not ever going to become President, right?” Strzok, “No. No, he won’t. We’ll stop it.” This is why we’re here. We’re going to get to the bottom of all of this. And we did a lot together when it came to Russian interference in our election. We had hearings, The Modus Operandi and the Toolbox of Russia and other Autocracies for Undermining Democracy Throughout the World. Russian Interference in the 2016 Election, May 2017. Extremist Content and Russian Disinformation Online, October 2017. Protecting Our Elections: Examining Shell Companies and Virtual Currencies as Avenues for Foreign Interference, June 2018. Cyber Threats Against Our National Critical Infrastructure, August 2018.
Lindsey Graham: (06:13)
We have looked at Russia’s role in the election. Now we’re going to look at the Mueller investigation. And we’re going to look hard. And we’re going to see if what Mr. Rosenstein said at the start of this hearing comes true, that if somebody corrupts the process, that if somebody lies to the court, they would face discipline or maybe criminal prosecution. You described, Mr. Rosenstein, the way it should work. And you gave us an indication of what happens if it doesn’t work that way. Well, what will happen? There are millions of Americans pretty upset about this. There are people on our side of the aisle who believed that this investigation, Crossfire Hurricane, was one of the most corrupt biased criminal investigations in the history of the FBI and we would like to see something done about it.
Lindsey Graham: (07:19)
Mr. Durham is looking at the criminality part. What is our job? Our job is to explain to the American people what the Russians were up to. And we did that together. Our job was to give Mr. Mueller the chance to do his work. And he did. Now it’s our job to take the Horowitz report that showed 17 violations of the FISA warrant applications against Carter Page and try to explain how that happened and shed light on the fact that it did happen and hope the system will respond.
Lindsey Graham: (07:54)
What are we going to be looking at? We’re going to be looking at General Flynn’s case. We’re going to be looking at the fact on January the 4th, 2017, the fill office in Washington DC said that there’s no longer justification for General Flynn to be considered part of Crossfire Hurricane. We’re going to be looking at the Mueller appointment in May of 2017 to see if there was a crime worthy of being investigated. Was there any there there? We’re going to look backward so that we can move forward. We’re going to hold people accountable.
Lindsey Graham: (08:35)
If you don’t like Trump, fine. But this is not about liking Trump or not liking Trump. This is about us as a nation. We’re talking about the nominee for President on the Republican side and his campaign being under continual investigation. We’re talking about warrants being issued after the President was sworn in. We’re talking about a two year investigation that spent $25 to $30 million, turned people’s lives upside down to see if it should have ever happened to begin with. We’re going to be talking about how it got off the rails, who’s responsible for it getting off the rails, and making sure that they’re punished appropriately and the system is changed so in the future, no other candidate for President, no other sitting President has to go through this. That’s why we’re here. It’s going to take a while, but we will not be deterred in our effort to get to the bottom of what I think was a very major abuse of power. Senator Feinstein.
Senator Feinstein: (09:50)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. As you have made abundantly clear, we are here at your request to examine Crossfire Hurricane, that’s the FBI investigation into Russian election interference and ties to the Trump campaign. Let me begin with a bit of history. The President has long claimed that the investigation of his campaign was a witch hunt and a hoax, and has demanded that his allies “investigate the investigators” and other Obama era officials, including Joe Biden. As support for this claim, the President and his allies point to errors identified by DOJ Inspector General, Michael Horowitz, in FISA surveillance on former Trump campaign aide, Carter Page. Inspector General Horowitz did, in fact, identify serious errors in the handling of the Carter Page FISA application. A broader FISA audit revealed that many of these problems are unfortunately widespread. This needs to be fixed and efforts to do so are already underway in the FBI, Congress, and the FISA court itself.
Senator Feinstein: (11:16)
But contrary to the President’s claims that his campaign was unfairly targeted, Inspector General Horowitz found no evidence of political or anti-Trump bias in the Crossfire Hurricane investigation. I’ve watched this IG carefully now since 2012, that’s eight years, and find him to be independent and believable. And Inspector General Horowitz also confirmed that the opening of the investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia was, in fact, justified. As Horowitz’s report explains, Australian officials informed the FBI in late July 2016 that Trump Campaign Advisor, George Papadopoulos, was told in April that Russia was willing to “assist the campaign,” meaning assist the Trump campaign by anonymously releasing dirt on Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.” The FBI learned this one week after WikiLeaks had released 20,000 emails that Russia had hacked from the computers of the Democratic National Committee. The hacks by Russia and the possibility that the Trump campaign knew of Russia’s plans to use the stolen emails to interfere in the 2016 election created a counter-intelligence concern that the FBI was obligated to investigate. I think everybody would recognize that.
Senator Feinstein: (13:10)
That counter-intelligence investigation eventually became the Mueller investigation when in May 2017, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Bob Mueller as Special Counsel after the President fired FBI Director, James Comey. Mueller’s investigation revealed “sweeping and systematic” interference by Russia in the 2016 election. That should cause every one that’s American some deep concern. Significantly, the Special Counsel investigation determined that the Russian government “perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and work to secure the outcome.” That’s from the Mueller report volume one, page one. The investigation uncovered more than 120 contacts between the Trump campaign and individuals linked to Russia, revealing that the Trump campaign knew about, welcomed, and “expected it would benefit electorally” from Russia’s interference. And the investigation established that individuals associated with the Trump campaign lied to Congress, the special council, and the American people about their contacts with Russia.
Senator Feinstein: (14:50)
IG Horowitz confirmed that none of the FISA errors his investigation uncovered call into question ” any part of the Special Counsel’s report.” And today’s witness, Mr. Rosenstein, has said that the Special Counsel investigation was “justified” and “an important investigation.” Unfortunately, the President and his allies have been trying to rewrite the Special Counsel’s findings since the day they were released. But ignoring or excusing what happened in 2016 is really very dangerous. It puts American democracy and national security at risk. FBI Director Wray has confirmed that Russia continues to interfere and that its attempt to influence the 2020 election “a significant counter- intelligence threat.”
Senator Feinstein: (16:03)
Special Counsel Mueller also warned that Russian interference was happening “as we sit here.” Yet instead of denouncing foreign interference, President Trump has encouraged and even demanded it. In a televised interview following the Mueller report, President Trump said there was “nothing wrong” with foreign governments offering political dirt on an opponent and that he would “take it,” likely without informing the FBI. The President publicly called on China to investigate Joe Biden, his rival in the 2020 election. That’s in 10/03/19 remarks of the President. And the President abused presidential authority by withholding critical United States military aid and an Oval Office meeting in an effort to pressure Ukraine’s president into announcing an investigation of Joe Biden.
Senator Feinstein: (17:16)
Unfortunately, it appears that Senate Republicans now plan to spend the next several months bolstering the President’s attack on the Russia investigation and his democratic nominee, Democrat Joe Biden. Congress should not conduct politically motivated investigations designed to attack or help any presidential candidate, Mr. Chairman, period. This would be true at any time, but even more so now as our nation confronts the brutal police killing of George Floyd and its aftermath and remains in the middle of a public health and economic crisis. Thank you.
Lindsey Graham: (18:01)
Thank you very much, Senator Feinstein. Mr. Rosenstein, would you please rise, stand? Do you solemnly swear the testimony you’re about to give this committee is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you God?
Rod Rosenstein: (18:13)
Lindsey Graham: (18:16)
Thank you. You may make your statement.
Rod Rosenstein: (18:19)
Thank you, Chairman Graham, ranking member Feinstein, and other members of the committee. Thank you for inviting me to join you today. When I was sworn in as Deputy Attorney General on April 26, 2017, I became responsible for helping the Attorney General to supervise 115,000 Department of Justice employees and to oversee hundreds of thousands of cases. One of the most important matters pending in the department was an investigation of Russian election influence schemes. Attorney General Sessions had complied with his legal obligation to recuse himself from that investigation seven weeks before I arrived. And the matter had been under the supervision of Acting Deputy Attorney General, Dana Boente, as a result. Many federal agents and prosecutors were working on criminal cases that officials considered potentially relevant to Russian election meddling. 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. I decided that appointing a Special Counsel was the best way to complete the investigation appropriately and to promote public confidence in its conclusions.
Rod Rosenstein: (19:44)
As we now know, the eventual conclusions were that Russians committed crimes seeking to influence the election and Americans did not conspire with them. A Special Counsel appointment was consistent with Department of Justice precedent. Attorney General Bill Barr and Attorney General Janet Reno each in the 1990s had appointed Special Counsels in several cases when they concluded that a prosecutor with some degree of independence from the department could best resolve sensitive matters. Or recently, Attorney General Barr has assigned US attorneys to take charge of significant investigations. But in May of 2017, there were only three confirmed United States attorneys remaining. All Obama administration appointees who had been ordered to resign and had been permitted to hold over for just a few months.
Rod Rosenstein: (20:40)
Some people confuse special counsels and independent counsels. Independent counsels are appointed by federal judges. The Department of Justice does not supervise them. They often expand their jurisdiction and they usually investigate for many years. In contrast, Special Counsel Mueller was supervised by the department with jurisdiction that was limited both in scope and in duration. I asked the Special Counsel to review each criminal allegation the FBI considered relevant to Russian election influence operations and recommend whether to close the matter, to investigate because it might be relevant to Russian election meddling, or to refer the matter to another prosecutor. I also established a supervisory chain of command within the department. Highly qualified department attorneys met regularly with the Special Counsel team to review recommendations about which matters to investigate and to approve significant steps in consultation with me. Whenever the Special Counsel proposed charges for which a United States attorney would need approval from the Department of Justice from a headquarters division, those charges were reviewed, as usual, by the tax division, the national security division, or the criminal division.
Rod Rosenstein: (22:04)
I understand that today’s hearing may focus on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. When I served as Deputy Attorney General, 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 to the court, a senior department official, either the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General, or the Assistant Attorney General for National Security met with National Security Division 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 that 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.
Rod Rosenstein: (23:12)
But investigative reviews published by the Inspector General in December 2019 and March of 2020, those investigative reviews revealed that the FBI was not following the protocols and that significant errors appeared in applications filed in connection with the Crossfire Hurricane investigation. The Inspector General concluded and I quote, “That so many basic and fundamental errors were made by three separate handpicked teams on one of the FBI’s most sensitive investigations that FBI officials expected would be subject to close scrutiny raised significant questions regarding the FBI chain of commands management and supervision of the FISA process.”
Rod Rosenstein: (23:57)
Senators, whenever agents or prosecutors make serious mistakes or engage in misconduct, the Department of Justice needs to take remedial action. And if existing policies fall short, those policies need to be changed. Ensuring the integrity of governmental processes is essential to promoting public confidence in the rule of law. While it is necessary to correct mistakes and to punish wrongdoers, it certainly should not go unsaid today that our law enforcement agencies are filled with men and women who act with integrity. As we watched them deal with extraordinarily difficult circumstances throughout the country this week, we should take this opportunity to let them know that they have our appreciation and our support. In conclusion, I know that the members of this committee share a commitment to the principles of the Department of Justice. I look forward to addressing your questions. Thank you.
Lindsey Graham: (24:58)
Thank you, Mr. Rosenstein. And I want to echo what you said. Most FBI agents, most law enforcement officers are risk their lives and do a job to protect our country and we appreciate them, but every now and then, things get off script. And that’s what brings us here today. You signed a warrant application in June of, I think, 2017 to get the Carter Page warrant renewed. Is that correct?
Rod Rosenstein: (25:25)
Lindsey Graham: (25:26)
Okay. Have you looked at the Horowitz report?
Rod Rosenstein: (25:30)
Yes, I have. I have it with me, Senator.
Lindsey Graham: (25:32)
If you knew then what you know now, would you have signed the warrant application?
Rod Rosenstein: (25:35)
No, I would not.
Lindsey Graham: (25:37)
And the reason you wouldn’t have is because Mr. Horowitz found that exculpatory information was withheld from the court. Is that correct?
Rod Rosenstein: (25:45)
Among other reasons, yes, sir.
Lindsey Graham: (25:46)
And somebody actually altered an email.
Rod Rosenstein: (25:51)
Lindsey Graham: (25:52)
Right, right. So there were 17 violations that Mr. Horowitz found, but I can’t stress enough to the country that he found the most egregious of all. The dossier was the only reason the Carter Page warrant was issued to begin with. And in January 2017, the man who provided the Steele with all the information told the FBI was a bunch of garbage and they used it twice more. What kind of country is this? What happens to people who do that? Did you know that? You didn’t know that, did you?
Rod Rosenstein: (26:28)
Lindsey Graham: (26:28)
Do you think McCabe knew that?
Rod Rosenstein: (26:31)
I hope not, Senator. I do not personally know.
Lindsey Graham: (26:34)
Was he in charge of the investigation?
Rod Rosenstein: (26:35)
Yes, he was.
Lindsey Graham: (26:36)
Did he ever lie to you?
Rod Rosenstein: (26:40)
Mr. McCabe, I don’t believe, Senator, that there were any occasions in which I identified that he lied to me.
Lindsey Graham: (26:46)
Okay. Did he ever say anything looking back that is perplexing to you?
Rod Rosenstein: (26:54)
Well, that’s a very broad question, Senator. I had a lot of conversations-
Lindsey Graham: (26:57)
Do you think he was truthful to you?
Rod Rosenstein: (26:58)
Well, I believed, Senator, that Mr. McCabe was not fully candid with me. He certainly wasn’t forthcoming. In particular, Senator, with regard to Mr. Comey’s memorandum of his interviews with the President and with regard to the FBI’s suspicions about the President, Mr. McCabe did not reveal those to me for at least a week after he became Acting Director despite the fact that we had repeated conversations focusing on this investigation. And for whatever reasons, Mr. McCabe was not forthcoming with me about that. He has subsequently said publicly in public comments he’s made about the investigation that his team had been leading up to certain important decisions for some time. From my perspective, Senator, they’d been conducting this investigation for, I believe, approximately nine months.
Lindsey Graham: (27:45)
How much did you rely on Mr. McCabe’s statements to sign the warrant? How much did that factor into whether or not you thought the warrant application was accurate?
Rod Rosenstein: (27:55)
Regarding to the warrant application, Senator, I wouldn’t say that I relied on Mr. McCabe’s statements. I certainly had the understanding of what Mr. McCabe had told me, but the document stands for itself, it’s 100 pages. And I relied on what I understood to be in the application.
Lindsey Graham: (28:10)
You did a scope letter, I think, August 2017 after you appointed Mueller. You know what I’m talking about?
Rod Rosenstein: (28:17)
Lindsey Graham: (28:18)
Memorandum, I suppose. Who prepared that?
Rod Rosenstein: (28:22)
Well, Senator, I don’t know exactly who prepared it. I know how it came about, if you’d like me to explain.
Lindsey Graham: (28:28)
Yeah, please, very quickly.
Rod Rosenstein: (28:29)
I’m not sure how quickly I can do it. But I’d asked Mr. Mueller to look at the whole, to look at all the relevant, potentially relevant matters.
Lindsey Graham: (28:42)
Where did the information in the document come from? Did it come from the Mueller team?
Rod Rosenstein: (28:46)
I believe it came from the Mueller team, but it came to me through the team that I had set up to interface with the Mueller team.
Lindsey Graham: (28:52)
Okay. The team that you sent, that interfaced with the Mueller team, did they make the conclusions that you need to be looking at Papadopoulos and all these people for colluding with Russia?
Rod Rosenstein: (29:04)
I think it’s important, Senator, to recognize one of the reasons I was very reluctant to release these documents publicly is because we investigate people who are not necessarily guilty. And so I didn’t have any presumption that these folks were guilty of anything.
Lindsey Graham: (29:17)
Did you believe
Rod Rosenstein: (29:17)
The determination was-
Lindsey Graham: (29:18)
Did you believe they committed a crime?
Rod Rosenstein: (29:20)
I understood that there was predication to investigate it. I didn’t believe-
Lindsey Graham: (29:24)
Where did that come from? Who gave you that predication?
Rod Rosenstein: (29:27)
Well, that came from information that came to me from the FBI, initially from-
Lindsey Graham: (29:31)
Was it from Strzok and Page? Are those the people preparing all these documents?
Rod Rosenstein: (29:35)
I don’t know who was preparing-
Lindsey Graham: (29:37)
Were they in charge? Were they still the investigators for Mueller early on?
Rod Rosenstein: (29:42)
My understanding, Senator, is that Ms. Page and Mr. Strzok were working with the Mueller-
Lindsey Graham: (29:48)
Okay. What input, if any, did they have into the information contained in the memo?
Rod Rosenstein: (29:53)
I don’t know the answer to that.
Lindsey Graham: (29:54)
Okay. Who provided the information in the memo?
Rod Rosenstein: (29:59)
I’m sorry. Which memo are we talking about?
Lindsey Graham: (30:01)
The one where you lay out the scope of the investigation?
Rod Rosenstein: (30:04)
That came through discussions between Mr. Mueller’s team and-
Lindsey Graham: (30:09)
Well, did anybody on your team recommend you look at Papadopoulos? Where did the idea that George Papadopoulos working with the Russians came from?
Rod Rosenstein: (30:18)
These matters, Senator, I believe, were already open when I arrived-
Lindsey Graham: (30:23)
Yeah, the point is that they were open. These are the same people doing Crossfire Hurricane. And they gave you a document to sign. And here’s my belief, that they prepared the document, that they defined the scope of their own investigation. Is that fair to say, that you were just a conduit for it?
Rod Rosenstein: (30:41)
Well, I’m relying on information that’s coming up-
Lindsey Graham: (30:42)
Yeah. Well, you didn’t do an independent investigation yourself. Did you?
Rod Rosenstein: (30:46)
My job isn’t to do the investigation-
Lindsey Graham: (30:50)
No. You basically relied on what they gave you. Is that fair to say?
Rod Rosenstein: (30:53)
Relied on the information that-
Lindsey Graham: (30:55)
Yeah, just like you did with the warrant.
Rod Rosenstein: (30:57)
Lindsey Graham: (30:58)
Okay. So the same people that gave you the warrant application also gave you the scope investigation for Mueller. So that’s why we’re here, to find out how much we can trust these people. Now to appoint a Special Counsel there’s got to be evidence criminal investigation of a person or matter is warranted. What was the crime that you were looking at?
Rod Rosenstein: (31:20)
So I think, Senator, it’s important to understand, first of all, that’s what’s required under the regulation. It’s actually not required to appoint a Special Counsel-
Lindsey Graham: (31:28)
Okay. Was there a crime being looked at or not?
Rod Rosenstein: (31:31)
In this particular case, yes.
Lindsey Graham: (31:32)
What was the crime?
Rod Rosenstein: (31:34)
The original crime, underlying crime, was the Russian influence operation.
Lindsey Graham: (31:40)
Okay. Can you tell us what evidence existed that General Flynn was colluding with the Russians in May of 2017?
Rod Rosenstein: (31:50)
The evidence against General Flynn, first of all, Senator-
Lindsey Graham: (31:53)
What evidence existed that General Flynn was colluding with the Russians in 2017, May of 2017?
Rod Rosenstein: (32:01)
I can’t comment about that case, Senator, beyond what’s in-
Lindsey Graham: (32:03)
Did you know that-
Lindsey Graham: (32:03)
… May of 2017.
Rod Rosenstein: (32:03)
I can’t comment about that case, Senator, beyond what’s in the public record.
Lindsey Graham: (32:04)
Did you know that in January, 4th, 2017, the FBI field office said we recommend that General Flynn be removed from Crossfire Hurricane?
Rod Rosenstein: (32:12)
No, I did not.
Lindsey Graham: (32:13)
Okay. Would that have mattered if you had known that?
Rod Rosenstein: (32:16)
Lindsey Graham: (32:16)
Okay. Did you know that they had recordings of Mr. Papadopoulos somewhere overseas saying, “No, I never worked with the Russians.” Words to the effect that if a campaign did, that would be treason. Did you know that existed?
Rod Rosenstein: (32:30)
No, I did not.
Lindsey Graham: (32:30)
Okay. How many times did Carter Page meet with Donald Trump?
Rod Rosenstein: (32:37)
I don’t know the answer to that, Senator.
Lindsey Graham: (32:38)
Okay. How many times did Papadopoulos meet with Donald Trump?
Rod Rosenstein: (32:41)
I don’t know the answer to that.
Lindsey Graham: (32:43)
Well, I can tell you. Zero, in any meaningful way. The dossier claims that Manafort was, that Carter page was a conduit of Manafort passing on Russian information. Are you aware of the fact that Carter Page has said numerous times, ” I never talked to Manafort?”
Rod Rosenstein: (33:02)
Yes, I am.
Lindsey Graham: (33:03)
Okay. The point is, when you made this appointment, the people named in it, there’s zero evidence they were working with the Russians. Zero. This went on for two years, $25 million, and people had their lives turned upside down, that General Flynn in January the 4th, 2017, the FBI agents who have been looking at him, said they recommended he be dropped. Then our good old buddy Strzok said, “No, the seventh floor wants to look at him.” If you had known that, would you would ask more questions?
Rod Rosenstein: (33:39)
Lindsey Graham: (33:40)
Okay. Anyway, thank you for your service. Knowing what you know now, do you have any reservations about making the Mueller appointment, given the fact that all the people named in this scope letter, there’s like zero evidence by January, May, 2017, they were working with the Russians. Do you have any concerns at all?
Rod Rosenstein: (34:06)
I think, Senator, there are two issues. The first is whether the investigation was appropriate and the second is whether it was appropriate to assign it to Mr. Mueller. The decision that I made, obviously, it was based on the information I had at the time. You need to make the decision based on what you know at the time.
Lindsey Graham: (34:20)
I’m not arguing with you about assigning it to Mueller. I’m saying, was there a legitimate reason to believe that any of the people named in this letter were actively working with the Russians in August, 2017?
Rod Rosenstein: (34:34)
In August, 2017?
Lindsey Graham: (34:36)
That’s when you signed the memo.
Rod Rosenstein: (34:38)
My understanding, Senator, was that there was reasonable suspicion.
Lindsey Graham: (34:42)
What is it? What was it?
Rod Rosenstein: (34:44)
Now, again, Senator, the investigation has concluded and these people were not conspiring with the Russians, the information available at the time included-
Lindsey Graham: (34:55)
Well, why do we have the Mueller investigation at all, if we had concluded they working with the Russians?
Rod Rosenstein: (35:00)
I don’t believe we had concluded it at that time.
Lindsey Graham: (35:02)
I am saying in January the 4th, 2017, the FBI had discounted Flynn, there was no evidence that Carter Page worked with the Russians, the dossier was a bunch of garbage and Papadopoulos is all over the place, not knowing he’s being recorded, denying working with the Russians, nobody’s ever been prosecuted for working with the Russians. The point is the whole concept that the campaign was colluding with the Russians, there was no there there in August, 2017. Do you agree with that general statement or not?
Rod Rosenstein: (35:39)
I agree with that general statement.
Lindsey Graham: (35:40)
Senator Feinstein: (35:48)
Thank you, and welcome. I’d like to begin with the impact of the Steele dossier, if I might. Inspector General Horowitz confirmed that the Crossfire Hurricane investigation, excuse me, was open because the FBI was told that Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos had advanced knowledge that Russia was planning to release stolen emails to harm Clinton and help Trump. The FBI officials who made that decision had not even seen the Steele dossier, but because of the Steele dossier was cited in the Carter Page FISA applications, the president and his allies falsely claim that the entire Russia investigation was started because the Steele dossier would never have happened if it hadn’t been for Steele’s reporting.
Senator Feinstein: (36:48)
You appointed Special Counsel Mueller. Is that true?
Rod Rosenstein: (36:53)
Senator Feinstein: (36:53)
You supervised Mueller’s investigation. Please, can you identify for us any findings in Mueller’s 448 page report that rely on information from the Steele dossier?
Rod Rosenstein: (37:09)
I don’t believe there’s any such information.
Senator Feinstein: (37:11)
Thank you. Can you identify which of the 199 criminal counts resulting from the Mueller investigation rely on information from the Steele dossier?
Rod Rosenstein: (37:25)
I don’t believe that the Steele dossier was relied upon for the indictments.
Senator Feinstein: (37:30)
Thank you. Can you identify investigative steps taken by Mueller that relied on information in the Steele dossier?
Rod Rosenstein: (37:40)
I wouldn’t know the answer to that, Senator, with regard to individual steps.
Senator Feinstein: (37:46)
Thank you. Did Special Counsel Mueller ever express concern that FBI or DOJ officials had unfairly targeted president or his campaign for investigation?
Rod Rosenstein: (38:01)
I never had that discussion with Mr. Mueller.
Senator Feinstein: (38:03)
Did he ever indicate that there was not a legitimate reason to investigate ties between the Trump campaign and Russia?
Rod Rosenstein: (38:11)
He never indicated, Senator, that there was not a legitimate reason to complete the investigation.
Senator Feinstein: (38:17)
Did you ever have any concerns that Mueller’s investigation was illegitimate, biased, unfairly targeted the president or his campaign?
Rod Rosenstein: (38:28)
I talked with Mr. Mueller about ensuring that there was no bias in the investigation. As you know, we did have an issue with one of the agents and another FBI employee who were working on the case. I talked with Mr. Mueller at that time and subsequently about the importance of making sure that everybody on his investigation understood, whatever their political views, that they needed to set that aside and make sure that the investigation was not affected by any bias.
Senator Feinstein: (38:54)
Do you believe that was carried out?
Rod Rosenstein: (38:56)
I do, because I have confidence in Mr. Mueller’s integrity.
Senator Feinstein: (38:59)
Do you believe the Mueller investigation was a hoax or a witch hunt or a deep-state conspiracy?
Rod Rosenstein: (39:07)
I do not believe the investigation was a hoax, Senator, but with regard to the nature of the allegations, keep in mind, those allegations are coming from other sources and I can’t vouch for the allegations.
Senator Feinstein: (39:24)
You signed off on all significant steps in the Mueller investigation. Was that because you believed them to be legitimate and supported by the evidence?
Rod Rosenstein: (39:35)
Everything that I approved, Senator, yes. Nothing came to my attention that I thought was illegitimate.
Senator Feinstein: (39:40)
Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Lindsey Graham: (39:43)
Thank you. Senator Grassley.
Chuck Grassley: (39:46)
Yeah. Thanks to General Barr Brady material relating to Flynn has been released, so too has the Flynn transcript with the Russian ambassador. Those materials include records that show, one, the FBI planned to close the Flynn case until Strzok interceded; two, that FBI notes that show the FBI may have deliberately set Flynn up to prosecute him or get him fired; three, the FBI had no derogatory information on Flynn; and, four, there was no legitimate factual predicate to interview him. Mr. Rosenstein, you and Mueller withheld these records from Congress and Flynn’s legal team. In June of 2018, I met with you to discuss the Flynn case and my other oversight request. You suggested to me that Congress should be satisfied with the facts contained in the plea agreement. In light of all the Brady material that has finally been released, it’s clear you were misleading me, Congress, and the American people when you suggested that we should be satisfied with Flynn’s plea agreement. Question: The whole point of the Mueller investigation was to uncover interference in the 2016 election, yet Mueller ignored the fact that intelligence reports from before he was appointed, said the Steele dossier contained Russian disinformation. Remember, that’s the same dossier that was paid for by the Democrat National Committee and the Clinton campaign. Did you instruct Mueller to investigate the origin of the dossier? If not, why not?
Rod Rosenstein: (41:54)
Thank you, Senator. First of all, I certainly did not intend to mislead you or anybody else. If I could just address that briefly, because I do recall that conversation, Senator. My view was that the case was pending in court and there’s a longstanding principle of the department then when the case is pending in court, we let the judicial process work through and we don’t engage with Congress about pending cases. That’s the only reason why I was reluctant to disclose information, not that I was concealing anything. I obviously didn’t know that there was exculpatory evidence.
Rod Rosenstein: (42:27)
With regard to the evidence that’s in the record now, because it was filed by the department, I’m not going to express any opinion about that. I’m going to wait and hear what General Barr has to say about it. But much of that, Senator, was news to me.
Rod Rosenstein: (42:41)
With regard to the other question you asked, Senator, keep in mind that my goal with regard to the special counsel was to keep that investigation focused and get it resolved as expeditiously as possible. I knew that an investigation of the Steele dossier and the origins of the Russia investigation would be far more complicated and take far more time. I didn’t believe and I don’t believe General Barr believes we need an independent special counsel from outside the department to do that. General Barr is trusting US attorney Durham to do that. I think that’s a reasonable decision. No, I did not ask Director Mueller to do that. I’m actually grateful that we wrapped up the special counsel phase in 22 months. If there’s other information to be uncovered, I’m confident it will be uncovered.
Chuck Grassley: (43:30)
When you approved the fourth, and final, FISA against Carter Page, were you aware that intelligence reports warned that the Steele dossier was a product of Russian disinformation? Were you also are aware that the Steele’s report were not fully verified and that some of Steele’s sources supported Clinton? If so, why did you approve the FISA?
Rod Rosenstein: (43:59)
No, I did not. If I could explain, Senator, I know the time is limited, but the Steele dossier is not in the FISA. It was not submitted to the court. There’s information from Steele that’s in the application. Again I’ve reviewed a lot of FISA applications during my tenure, my understanding is that what’s in the affidavits is verified. The Steele dossier and all the nonsense that was in the media about these allegations that have been made, that’s not in the FISA application. What’s in the FISA application, my understanding was, was verified information. Of course, there is other information. It’s not just information that came from Mr. Steele.
Chuck Grassley: (44:40)
Let me please get to one final point. My time’s just about out. On May the 9th, 2017, you wrote a memo to attorney general recommending Comey termination. That same day, the president terminated him. On May the 12th, you sent an email to Mueller that said, quote, “The boss and his staff do not know about our discussions,” end of quote. On May the 16th, the day before you appointed Mueller, you emailed a former deputy attorney general and said, quote, “I am with Mueller. He shares my views. Duty calls. Sometimes the moment chooses us,” end of quote. When you referenced “the boss,” who were you referring to? Did you discuss appointing Mueller with any Obama administration officials? If so, who?
Rod Rosenstein: (45:37)
Thank you very much, Senator, for asking that question. As a criminal investigator, we found emails were very useful evidence, but sometimes they can be misleading because they’re out of context. If you allow me the time to explain both of those emails, the first one refers to the fact that I had talked to Director Mueller about the possibility if I found it necessary to appoint a special counsel whether he would be available. It was really determining whether I had that option. I had not made a decision whether to appoint him.
Rod Rosenstein: (46:08)
Jeff Sessions, as many of you know, is one of the most principled people I’ve ever met in Washington. He recused from that investigation. His position was, I’m not going to discuss it. I’m recused from the investigation. What happened there was that General Sessions had reached out independently to Director Mueller to ask him to come in for advice about a new FBI director. There are a lot of things going on at the department at that time. One of them was the selection of candidates for a new FBI director.
Rod Rosenstein: (46:39)
That hasty email, which I know some in the media have misconstrued, I was simply alerting Director Mueller, when you talk to “the boss,” Attorney General Sessions, keep in mind he doesn’t know anything about the Russia investigation. It’s an example, Senator, of how these things can be misconstrued. It’s actually a very innocent email.
Rod Rosenstein: (47:00)
Same thing with the other one, and that’s a little bit longer of a story, but it also related to the search for an FBI director. I believe when I sent that email, I was actually in the White House counsel’s office. I was meeting with the deputy white house counsel and we were talking about potential candidates for FBI director. I had been speaking with the former deputy attorney general you have in mind trying to encourage him to apply for the job. He was resistant. He was reluctant to apply for the job. I was actually lobbying to get him to apply for the job. In fact, I asked Greg Katsas to call one of our former attorneys general to talk to the former deputy attorney general and encourage him to apply. I think when I said, “I’m with Mueller,” I meant that literally, that Mueller was with me at the White House. When I said, “You need to step up,” I meant he needed to step up. I was encouraging him, the former deputy attorney general, to step up and apply to the FBI director.
Rod Rosenstein: (47:52)
It’s a completely innocent email. I certainly understand out of context how it looks nefarious. But I can assure you, Senator, I had been in the department for 30 years, those emails are all preserved. I wouldn’t be putting anything nefarious in emails. Hopefully I wouldn’t be saying anything nefarious at all, but certainly wouldn’t be putting it in an email.
Lindsey Graham: (48:14)
Patrick Leahy: (48:15)
Thank you. Thank you for being here.
Patrick Leahy: (48:19)
I’ve not been shy about the fact, I even noted it with Senator Lee in a joint op-ed in the Washington Post last month, that the FBI had made serious mistakes during its surveillance of former Trump campaign advisor Carter Page. The FISA renewal application presented to you for approval in June, 2017 was one of those. The committee already held a hearing on this last December after Inspector General Howard released his 478 page report. You said you have that with you. Those are Crossfire Hurricane, which became the broader Russia investigation, counter-intelligence investigations into Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos, Michael Flynn, all of whom were convicted of felonies and Carter Page.
Patrick Leahy: (49:15)
Now the only time, as I understand, the FBI applied for a FISA surveillance order in these five investigations, the only time they did, was with respect to Carter Page is correct?
Rod Rosenstein: (49:28)
That’s my understanding. Yes, sir.
Patrick Leahy: (49:29)
Thank you. The 17 errors the inspector general found with respect to the Carter Page FISA application all came after, so they would not impact the launch of the broader Russia investigation. Is that correct?
Rod Rosenstein: (49:49)
I believe that’s correct.
Patrick Leahy: (49:50)
Patrick Leahy: (49:52)
Now, the Mueller report is 448 pages. Do you know how many pages of the 448 referred to Carter Page?
Rod Rosenstein: (50:04)
I do not.
Patrick Leahy: (50:05)
I’ll let you know, it’s seven. Seven pages on that, 441 on other matters. I mention this because I think the Carter Page case demonstrates the FISA application process itself is flawed. It’s not subject to no scrutiny.
Patrick Leahy: (50:24)
Another report last March, the inspector general found that of 29 FBI applications for FISA surveillance he reviewed, 25 or 86% of them had an average of 20 issues each. That’s what I mean about the scrutiny.
Patrick Leahy: (50:46)
Now, the intelligence community made a unanimous assessment that was shared by the bipartisan, Republicans and Democrats alike in the Senate Intelligence Committee, that Russia interfered in our elections. Do you agree that the FBI’s errors in the Carter Page case don’t undermine those unanimous assessments?
Rod Rosenstein: (51:18)
Yes. Yes, I do agree.
Patrick Leahy: (51:22)
Patrick Leahy: (51:23)
We do have then the unanimous assessment within the intelligence community and the Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Russia interfered in our election.
Patrick Leahy: (51:38)
Now, I believe this is interference that the Trump campaign welcomed and attempted to exploit. “Mr. Putin, are you listening,” and so on. Any arguments suggesting that the Russia investigation should have never occurred and the American people should be in the dark about Russia’s interference in our country’s election in 2016, I find that deeply troubling. I believe that serves Vladimir Putin’s interests more than ours. I believe you would agree with me that we should not have any countries, whether it’s Russia or anybody else interfering with free and fair elections in this country. Is that correct?
Rod Rosenstein: (52:20)
I do agree with you on that, Senator.
Patrick Leahy: (52:22)
As deputy attorney general and for a while supervisor of the Russia investigation, the special counsel reported to you. Before you saw any indictments, the special counsel provided you with an explanation of his charging decisions, including against a dozen Russian nationals and military intelligence officers, as well as Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, and George Papadopoulos. You didn’t object to those charging decisions or the indictments. Is that correct?
Rod Rosenstein: (52:52)
It’s true that I didn’t object, Senator, but I actually don’t sign the indictments.
Patrick Leahy: (52:58)
But you found nothing to object to them?
Rod Rosenstein: (53:00)
I was not aware of any reason to object to any of those charges.
Patrick Leahy: (53:03)
Patrick Leahy: (53:03)
While supervising the Russia investigation, you never rejected an explicit request by the special counsel to take a investigative step or pursue an indictment. Is that correct?
Rod Rosenstein: (53:15)
Patrick Leahy: (53:15)
Thank you very much.
Patrick Leahy: (53:18)
I want the chairman to notice that …
Lindsey Graham: (53:21)
You did well.
Patrick Leahy: (53:21)
Unlike my colleagues on the other side, I kept exactly to five minutes.
Lindsey Graham: (53:26)
You set the standard for the rest of us.
Patrick Leahy: (53:28)
Lindsey Graham: (53:31)
Thank you. But you did mention a very important point and I can’t remember what it was and I’ll think of it in a minute.
Lindsey Graham: (53:40)
John Cornyn: (53:43)
Mr. Rosenstein, I know you’ve dedicated almost your entire adult life to serving at the Department of Justice. I know you love and revere that institution and the people that work there, and rightly so. But I can only imagine how disappointing it must be to you now to learn following the revelations of the inspector general’s report and other investigations some of the facts and circumstances leading up to the investigation of the Trump campaign.
John Cornyn: (54:22)
First of all, let me take you back to Director Comey. You wrote a memo, I believe it was in May of 2017 recommending to President Trump that he fire Director Comey. Correct?
Rod Rosenstein: (54:36)
My memo to Attorney General Sessions, yes, sir.
John Cornyn: (54:38)
Excuse me. You’re right. Yeah. It was a memo to the attorney general, and then that was forwarded to the president. Your principal concern as I recall it in that memo was that Director Comey usurped the role of the Department of Justice when he held a press conference on July, 2016, where he said that Hillary Clinton was extremely reckless in the way she handled her email server, but he said that no reasonable prosecutor would prosecute her. Thus in the process of saying, well, she’s probably not going to get charged with a crime, but nevertheless, let me tell you all about all the derogatory information. That was in violation of the norms, the rules and regulations of the Department of Justice. Correct?
Rod Rosenstein: (55:31)
John Cornyn: (55:32)
You concluded in your memo to director, excuse me, to Attorney General Sessions that he would probably do that again since he saw nothing wrong with the way he handled that. Correct?
Rod Rosenstein: (55:47)
I don’t recall my exact words, Senator, but actually I have it in front of me.
John Cornyn: (55:51)
I think it’s about the last sentence or so.
Rod Rosenstein: (55:53)
It’s important that we have an FBI director who recognizes that that was wrong. Yes, sir.
John Cornyn: (55:59)
This was an example of the FBI getting involved in the midst of a presidential political campaign and holding a press conference talking about derogatory information that they discovered, but then saying no reasonable prosecutor would prosecute. Can you explain to us why it’s important that the Department of Justice, including the FBI, doesn’t get involved in the middle of political campaigns?
Rod Rosenstein: (56:24)
Yes, Senator. I think there are a couple of issues there. One obviously is a sensitivity about campaigns. The other is the principle that the Department of Justice doesn’t disparage people.
Rod Rosenstein: (56:34)
Our prosecutors conduct investigations and if they determined that they believe the evidence warrants, prosecution, and it meets the principles of a federal prosecution, then they return indictments and the jury and judge decide about guilt. If we don’t indict people, Senator, it’s not our job to disparage them.
Rod Rosenstein: (56:54)
That’s why I wrote that memo. It’s also why I believe it’s unfair and unfortunate that that Carter Page FISA was leaked, because the principal here, Senator, is we conduct investigations, we presume people innocent and we don’t disparage them unless and until we have evidence that warrants prosecution.
John Cornyn: (57:11)
Well, given the policy of the Department of Justice not to get her get involved during political campaigns and to attempt to influence those, it strikes me as unprecedented that in the 2016 timeframe, you had open investigations of both candidates running for president, both the Democratic nominee and the Republican nominee. Would you agree with me, there is no precedent for that in American history?
Rod Rosenstein: (57:36)
I believe that’s correct.
John Cornyn: (57:40)
Well, let’s talk a little bit about how the FBI handled the investigation and Crossfire Hurricane. We’ve talked about the Steele dossier, but as you know, at the time Christopher Steele was on the payroll of Fusion GPS to do opposition research for the Democratic National Committee on behalf of the Hillary Clinton campaign. He was also retained as a confidential human source by the FBI. Correct?
Rod Rosenstein: (58:09)
I don’t know all the details, Senator. What I do know though, is that whoever was paying him is one issue. The other issue is what was the basis for believing he was credible. Did the FBI have an appropriate basis for believing he was credible? The inspector general report suggests that they misstated that or overstated their basis for believing he was credible.
John Cornyn: (58:30)
Well, the inspector general noted that Steele said, “I don’t work for the FBI. I worked for Fusion GPS. I’m a businessman, but I may pass some information that’s useful to the FBI.” Do you remember that?
Rod Rosenstein: (58:44)
I know that from the report. Yes, sir.
John Cornyn: (58:46)
At the same time that he was a confidential human source for the FBI, he was on the payroll of Fusion GPS doing opposition research for Hillary Clinton’s campaign. He was ultimately terminated by the FBI for violating the rules by leaking information to the press, but he continued to backdoor information to the FBI through Bruce Ohr. Correct?
Rod Rosenstein: (59:09)
That’s what my understanding. I don’t know the chronology of when he was on the payroll of Fusion GPS, but generally I believe that’s correct.
John Cornyn: (59:16)
With the chairman’s indulgence, let me ask if we can put a footnote 350 on the screen. I asked Attorney General Barr back in May, I think it was, of 2019. I said, “Can can we state with any confidence that the Steele dossier was not part of a Russian disinformation campaign?” His answer was, “Well, that’s one of the areas that I’m reviewing. I’m concerned about it, and I don’t think it’s entirely speculative.”
John Cornyn: (59:45)
Well, we know that Bill Priestap, who’s in charge of the counter intelligence division, said they did consider the possibility that Steele was a part of a Russian disinformation campaign. But then thanks to the diligence of Senator Grassley and Senator Johnson and the director of national intelligence, we now have a copy of the less redacted footnote 350 to the inspector general report, which points out, if you can see it, that not only did a Steele have regular interaction with Russian oligarchs, but that there was a potential for Russian disinformation influencing Steele’s election reporting. It did not have high confidence that the sub-sources for Steele’s reporting and assessed that the reference subset was part of a Russian disinformation campaign to denigrate US foreign relations.
John Cornyn: (01:00:50)
Mr. Rosenstein, it strikes me that Mr. Putin must be extraordinarily pleased with how this all played itself out. Not only was Hillary Clinton and her campaign disparaged, not only was President Trump and his campaign disparaged and put through what can only be described as hell for the last three-and-a-half years of an investigation, when in fact the source of some of the information that was used not only to secure a FISA warrant but to conduct a counterintelligence investigation, may in fact have been part of a Russian disinformation campaign. Does that concern you?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:01:33)
It concerns me very much, Senator. I’m in a bit of a disadvantage. As you know, I was in the job for only two years. I’ve been gone now for about 13 months, so I don’t have access to any information that’s been generated through the Durham investigation. I do not know what Attorney General Barr has discovered with regard to that, but I think it’s important, senators, for us to keep in mind that it is established, I believe, that Russia’s efforts included disparaging Hillary Clinton, as you said, that that doesn’t mean Russia is on the other candidate side. Russia is on Russia’s side. I think we should be just as concerned if there’s evidence that they were disparaging or attacking, trying to undermine President Trump as we were about their activities with regard to Secretary Clinton. I don’t know the answer to it, but I am concerned about it.
John Cornyn: (01:02:20)
I agree with you. The point I was trying to make is the Crossfire Hurricane investigation based almost entirely on the allegations of Christopher Steele and the sources he provided, which may have in fact been part of a Russian disinformation campaign, which has successfully divided the country and created a lot of chaos in the ensuing three-and-a-half years.
John Cornyn: (01:02:44)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Lindsey Graham: (01:02:45)
Rod Rosenstein: (01:02:45)
If I could just follow up on that. Senator, whether it’s Russian disinformation or other disinformation, I think the FBI needs to figure out where did it come from, why was it submitted and were any crimes committed. I think that’s an appropriate area of investigation. I just don’t know what the evidence reflects.
Lindsey Graham: (01:03:03)
Lindsey Graham: (01:03:03)
Richard Durbin: (01:03:05)
Thank you, Mr. Rosenstein. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Richard Durbin: (01:03:09)
I miss baseball. Obviously, a lot of Americans miss baseball as well. They’re broadcasting old baseball games now, and I’m watching them. I’m wondering today, the people who’ve tuned into this hearing over CSPAN of the Senate Judiciary Committee must think they’re watching a rerun, a classic hearing of several years ago on the Mueller report. But, unfortunately, this is not a rerun. This is the priority of the Senate Judiciary Committee today. Today, in June of 2020.
Richard Durbin: (01:03:44)
Those who tuned in might’ve expected that we’d have a hearing concerning the public health crisis facing America, the pandemic, which we’re fighting every day, which has claimed over 100,000 American lives. They might think we would consider the issue of profiteering in this pandemic within the jurisdiction of this committee. But we’re not.
Richard Durbin: (01:04:03)
… in this pandemic, within the jurisdiction of this committee, but we’re not. Perhaps we take up the issue of privacy and contact tracing, an important issue, but we’re not taking that up either. They might wonder if we would actually have a markup to establish legitimate public health standards to protect Americans and American businesses, but we’re not. They might even wonder if we would take up the issue of racism and the administration of justice in America, certainly a timely topic, but we are not. They might wonder if we would ask a question about President Trump’s suggestion 48 hours ago that he would have a federal militarization of law enforcement across the United States, certainly a significant constitutional issue. No, we’re not taking that up today. Instead, we’re taking up the Mueller Report, an investigation that was completed more than a year ago. Why? We’re taking it up because it has become a bloody shirt on the right.
Richard Durbin: (01:04:59)
Listen to what the Attorney General of the United States said two weeks ago, in a quote at a Department of Justice press conference about the investigation, Mr. Rosenstein, which you were in charge of. “It was a grave injustice, and it was unprecedented in American history. The law enforcement and intelligence apparatuses of this country were involved in advancing a false and utterly baseless Russian collusion narrative against the President. The proper investigative and prosecutive standards of the Department of Justice were abused, in my view, in order to reach a particular result.”
Richard Durbin: (01:05:38)
Mr. Rosenstein, the Attorney General of the United States called it a false and utterly baseless Russian collusion narrative against the President. There have been other things said, too. The chairman of the committee, on December the ninth, described the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation as an endeavor that, quote, “became a criminal conspiracy to defraud the court, to trample on the rights of an American citizen,” Mr. Carter Page. He went on today, this morning, in talking about whether we should have any lawful predicate to appoint Mueller to begin with. He called up the Hurricane Crossfire, one of the most corrupt, biased investigations in the history of the FBI. Mr. Rosenstein, that was an investigation that you were in charge of. It was conducted by an individual that you personally selected. Do you consider it to be an utterly baseless, corrupt criminal investigation, as you reflect on it today?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:06:39)
I do not consider the investigation to be corrupt, Senator, but I certainly understand. I understand the President’s frustration given the outcome, which was in fact that there was no evidence of conspiracy between Trump campaign advisors and Russians.
Richard Durbin: (01:06:58)
We’re about embark on an investigation by this committee, which may be the largest investigation I’ve ever witnessed here. Tomorrow, I understand the chairman is going to ask for authority to issue 53 subpoenas for witnesses. What an irony that we began this year in an impeachment trial where the Republicans refused to produce one document or one witness. Not one witness when it came to questions of the impeachment of the President. Tomorrow there will be 53 names submitted, and they will not be cleared with the minority. As I understand the proposal by the chairman, he alone will have the authority to decide which ones to call.
Richard Durbin: (01:07:39)
We will attempt to amend his subpoena on the Democratic side to make sure that if we are clearly trying to find the truth in this matter about whether this was an utterly baseless investigation, we believe we should also be calling a few other witnesses. How about Michael Cohen, who negotiated a Trump Tower- Moscow deal until at least June of 2016? Perhaps Paul Manafort, repeatedly passing campaign information to Konstantin Kilimnik, who had Russian intelligence ties. Konstantin Kilimnik himself, Manafort’s Russian national business partner, which Mueller found to have Russian intelligence ties. Rick Gates, deputy chairman who instructed Manafort to feed campaign information to Kilimnik. George Papadopoulis, whose comments prompted the opening of the FBI investigation. Michael Flynn, Roger Stone, there are more on the list.
Richard Durbin: (01:08:36)
If we truly want to get to the bottom of this and bring all the witnesses in as to whether this was a baseless claim of Russian collusion with anyone in the United States, certainly we want the record to be complete, don’t we? Don’t we want witnesses to give us complete testimony? I would hope so.
Richard Durbin: (01:08:55)
Mr. Rosenstein, let me ask you the bottom line question when it comes to what we are considering today. Mr. Mueller, whom I respect, though I may disagree with in one context or another, reached some very basic conclusions in light of any wrongdoing in the FISA court, involving Carter Page and others, and all the information you know today. Mr. Rosenstein, do you disagree with the key finding of Mr. Mueller that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential campaign in a sweeping and systematic fashion?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:09:27)
I agree with that finding.
Richard Durbin: (01:09:28)
Do you agree the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:09:34)
I don’t know what the government was thinking, Senator. I can only tell you what their conduct was.
Richard Durbin: (01:09:40)
Do you agree that there were more than 120 contacts, as Mr. Mueller found, in his report between the Trump campaign and individuals linked to Russia?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:09:49)
I have no reason to dispute that.
Richard Durbin: (01:09:51)
Do you agree the Trump campaign knew about, welcomed, and expected to benefit electorally from Russia’s interference, as Mr. Mueller found in his report?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:09:59)
What page you’re referring to, Senator?
Richard Durbin: (01:10:01)
Happy to tell you. It’s volume one, pages one and two.
Rod Rosenstein: (01:10:16)
I’m not sure whether you were quoting from the report, Senator, but I have it in front of me.
Richard Durbin: (01:10:22)
Statement within the report, volume one, pages one and two.
Rod Rosenstein: (01:10:25)
Yes, sir. I have it right here.
Richard Durbin: (01:10:27)
“Trump campaign knew about, welcomed and expected to benefit electorally from Russia’s interference.” Do you disagree with that? Do you have any reason to disagree with that finding?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:10:35)
Yeah. I apologize, Senator. I’m not seeing those words in the report. If you can direct me to where it is in the report, I’ll be happy to-
Richard Durbin: (01:10:43)
I will. I don’t have it at the moment in front of me, but I will produce it. Do you disagree with the Mueller Report conclusion that the Trump campaign planned a press strategy, a communications campaign and a messaging based on possible release of Clinton emails by WikiLeaks? Volume one, page 54.
Rod Rosenstein: (01:11:16)
That says, “according to Mr. Gates.” That’s attributed to Mr. Gates. I don’t think that’s a finding of Mueller, but it’s what one of the witnesses said.
Richard Durbin: (01:11:24)
Do you have any reason to believe it’s not true?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:11:26)
I have no information beyond the fact that the witness said it, Senator.
Richard Durbin: (01:11:30)
The bottom line is this. For over a year, this report has been public. It has been debated. It has been parsed, analyzed, and the bottom line conclusions have not been disputed. Though there may have been some wrongdoing involving any one person in the investigation, it boggles the mind that the Attorney General of the United States would say, “This is baseless.” I yield.
Lindsey Graham: (01:11:57)
Thank you, and I’ll turn to Senator Lee in a minute, but I’m going to respond, if I may, about what I’m doing and why. I believe, and all of us believe, that if the Republican party had paid Mr. Steel through an organization money to dig up dirt on Hillary Clinton, and he used a Russian to create a bunch of garbage, it was used to get a warrant against a Clinton campaign operative, you’d have a little different view of this. That you would be raising holy hell, and all your friends in the media would be front page news, everywhere, treason, but it’s Trump. It’s okay. Long as you’re out to get somebody you need to get, damn the way you do it.
Lindsey Graham: (01:12:41)
Well, this committee is not going to accept that standard, my friend. This committee looked at everything you wanted us to look at in terms of Russian behavior. Did Russia interfere? You better believe they did. Will they do it again? Yes, they will. Was this the Ukrainians? No, it was the Russians who stole the emails. It was the Russians who have divided the American people in terms of the 2016 campaign.
Lindsey Graham: (01:13:03)
But it wasn’t the Russians, my friend, who withheld information from the FISA court, keeping Carter Page’s life turned upside down. It wasn’t the Russians who refused to tell the court that the underlying dossier that was crucial to the Carter page warrant was a bunch of garbage. It wasn’t the Russians who manipulated an email to keep getting a warrant against American citizens. It wasn’t the Russians who withheld information from the court about General Flynn, that they were setting him up and out to get him. It was the Department of Justice. It was the FBI. It was people who hated Trump. People who had a political bias, an agenda to distort him before he was elected, and after he was elected, and we’re going to get to the bottom of it. And if you want people subpoenaed, I will certainly listen to what you got to say, but this stinks. This is a sad episode in the history of the FBI. There was no, “There, there,” in August, 2017. It may not bother you, but it bothers us, and I hope it will bother the American people, and we’ll fix it. Senator Lee.
Senator Mike Lee: (01:14:19)
On June 29, 2017, you signed off on the third FISA renewal application. Did you read that application?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:14:26)
Senator Mike Lee: (01:14:27)
So having been asked to sign off on it, you had read it. Were you aware of the multiple errors and omissions that were later discovered and disclosed by the Inspector General?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:14:38)
Senator Mike Lee: (01:14:39)
Were you aware that the information provided by Christopher Steele, commonly referred to as the Steele dossier, was the basis of the assertions in the FISA application?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:14:48)
I believe, Senator, that some of the assertions in the application are from Steele, my understanding is, but only some.
Senator Mike Lee: (01:14:55)
Were you aware of the fact that the Steele dossier, which you’ve just acknowledged, was at least the partial basis for this, was bought and paid for by the Democratic National Committee and shared with the Hillary Clinton campaign?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:15:07)
I don’t believe I had that detailed information at the time.
Senator Mike Lee: (01:15:10)
Okay. So you’re being asked to do something significant. You’re asked as the Deputy Attorney General, the acting Attorney General in this circumstance, to sign off on something. And yet you don’t have a critical piece of information. That’s a problem, it seems to me.
Rod Rosenstein: (01:15:25)
Senator Mike Lee: (01:15:25)
It’s a problem, especially given that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act can be used, can be manipulated, and in fact has been abused and manipulated so as to spy on a presidential campaign, a campaign that turned out to be for the man who became the 45th President of the United States. Were you aware that the application mischaracterized Christopher Steele’s past work with the FBI as a confidential human source, and failed to include information from his source questioning his reliability?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:15:53)
No. I was not aware of that.
Senator Mike Lee: (01:15:54)
If you had known about these errors and omissions, as of June 29, 2017, would you have signed off on it?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:16:00)
Senator Mike Lee: (01:16:01)
Rod Rosenstein: (01:16:02)
Senator, my understanding is that these FISA applications followed a very rigorous process, and that they were accurate, that they were verified. The whole principle of having an agent sign it under oath is that you can rely on the facts.
Senator Mike Lee: (01:16:15)
And the whole point of having the Deputy Attorney General sign off on them was to have somebody who would be accountable to someone who was in turn accountable to the voters, who could verify their accuracy. Is that right? And yet that did not happen.
Rod Rosenstein: (01:16:28)
I don’t think that the idea is for the person who approves the filing, which is the Attorney General, the Deputy, or the National Security Assistant Attorney General to personally verify the facts. It’s to make sure the accurate process has been followed and that the document sets forth a proper basis.
Senator Mike Lee: (01:16:44)
Rod Rosenstein: (01:16:45)
It did set forth a proper basis.
Senator Mike Lee: (01:16:46)
But surely the process isn’t [inaudible 01:16:47], the process isn’t there simply to provide cover, to do something unlawful. The process is there, ideally, one would hope, to make sure the rule of law is respected.
Rod Rosenstein: (01:16:57)
Senator Mike Lee: (01:16:58)
Before you became the acting Attorney General in this context, didn’t you at some point get a sense for the politicization within the FBI at the top level of the FBI, even beyond Jim Comey?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:17:16)
Senator Mike Lee: (01:17:17)
You didn’t have any sense that there was a targeting of a presidential candidate, and later, someone who became the President of the United States?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:17:25)
I did not have that impression.
Senator Mike Lee: (01:17:27)
What was the legal basis for appointing Robert Mueller? And didn’t you become concerned at some point about the composition of Mueller’s staff? Let’s take for example Mr. Weissman. Mr. Weissman is now fundraising for Joe Biden, as is his right. Previously, he was an advocate of the Hillary Clinton campaign. Did that bother you, that you had known Democratic operatives, overwhelmingly Democratic leaning people who were part of this team?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:17:58)
It would have been preferable, Senator, to have a more politically diverse group, but if they followed the rules, their political ideology wouldn’t matter.
Senator Mike Lee: (01:18:08)
If everyone followed the rules, political ideologies wouldn’t matter [crosstalk 01:18:12].
Rod Rosenstein: (01:18:12)
But Senator, I had Bob Mueller in charge of this, and based upon that, and based upon my conversations with him, I’m fairly confident that the political bias did not enter into that investigation.
Senator Mike Lee: (01:18:23)
At any point, were you asked by any member of Congress to launch a criminal investigation of President Trump?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:18:29)
I don’t believe so.
Senator Mike Lee: (01:18:32)
Getting back to the FISA application process, why didn’t you urge the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to appoint an amicus curiae, given the obvious sensitivities of this investigation?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:18:43)
Well, Senator, I have to tell you, in context, you asked me about reading the FISA. There are a lot of FISA applications that come through. Some are more significant than others. This one was unusual in that I already knew about it because of the Russia investigation. Most of the FISA applications that are presented to me, I’m the last eyes on them before they’re filed to the court, and I know nothing about them. This one, I actually knew a fair amount about, and they gave it to me in advance so I could review it. I’m not sure I read every page, but I was familiar with what was in it.
Rod Rosenstein: (01:19:12)
But it actually, if you read the report, I know most people haven’t seen the unredacted version, but my recollection of it, and I haven’t seen it for some time, is it was actually fairly persuasive, and it had already been approved three times. This was just a reauthorization.
Senator Mike Lee: (01:19:27)
Thank you. Now, you indicated moments ago that Mr. McCabe did not lie to you, but you also acknowledged that he was not fully candid. What’s the difference?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:19:37)
Well, lying is when you ask somebody a direct question, you get a false answer. Candor is when you are forthcoming with information that somebody needs to know, and I believe, Senator, that Mr. McCabe should have recognized that when I became acting Attorney General, I needed to know about Mr. Comey’s memos. He didn’t understand that, and he did not tell that to me until a couple of hours before they showed up in the New York Times.
Senator Mike Lee: (01:20:04)
So what and when did he tell you about the Comey memos, and when should he have done that? And also, he waited for at least a week before telling you about some of the intel-related concerns? Weren’t you his boss?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:20:19)
Senator Mike Lee: (01:20:20)
And so he had an obligation to tell you.
Rod Rosenstein: (01:20:23)
I don’t know if he had a legal obligation, Senator, but my philosophy as a manager was that you have a responsibility to tell the boss things that you know they need to know.
Senator Mike Lee: (01:20:33)
Rod Rosenstein: (01:20:33)
And that’s a pretty important thing that I would have needed to know.
Senator Mike Lee: (01:20:36)
And so that would have been regarded as material. The omission of that, had you been aware of it, probably would have been grounds for termination.
Rod Rosenstein: (01:20:45)
If I had asked him and he had misrepresented it, yes.
Senator Mike Lee: (01:20:49)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I see my time has expired.
Lindsey Graham: (01:20:52)
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse: (01:20:53)
Thank you, Chairman. Welcome back to the incredible shrinking Judiciary Committee, Mr. Rosenstein. We used to have a say in Circuit Court nominees. Now nothing protects them even having to come from our states. We gave that away. We used to oversee executive privilege claims. Now a witness utters the word “privilege,” and we shrivel up. We gave that away. We used to screen out extremist and unqualified judges. Now it’s hard to see any bottom to whom we’ll confirm. We gave that away, and we face the danger now that this committee, this historic committee is going to begin running political investigatory errands. I think facing that risk, it is worth having some assurances about how this is going to be conducted, and I say this based on experience of looking at the House Intelligence Committee and the Republican side of that committee, and its efforts to disparage and interfere with the Mueller campaign.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse: (01:22:03)
That has not yet been fully investigated. I don’t believe that Mueller investigated any linkage between the House Intelligence Committee Republicans’ efforts and the White House, or their efforts and Trump’s lawyers, but I strongly suspect that the House Intelligence Committee Republicans were advised, controlled, or directed by Trump lawyers, either in the White House or on the Trump legal team. And that sorry experience, if that is in fact the case, again, investigation would reveal it, but we have had no investigation, should not be replicated in the Senate Judiciary Committee. I hope that we can receive appropriate assurances here that whatever investigation we undertake will not be controlled by the Trump White House and will not be controlled by the Trump campaign.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse: (01:23:11)
As we pursue this oversight, one other aspect of the incredible shrinking Judiciary Committee is that we used to require the FBI and the Department of Justice to answer our questions. Now we just get ignored. There is a bin someplace at the FBI and the Department of Justice into which our questions get thrown. And Mr. Rosenstein, you were sworn in on February 1, 2017 as Deputy Attorney General. You resigned from the department on May 11, 2019. In between those dates, we had hearings on May 2, 2017, May 24, 2017, June 27, 2017, October 18, 2017, December 6, 2017, February 6, 2018, March 13, 2018, June 12, 2018, June 18, 2018, June 26, 2018, July 18, 2018, July 31, 2018, December 12, 2018, and May 1, 2019, with Department of Justice witnesses, and none, none of the committee’s questions for the record were answered, ever. None. Can you explain why that took place, Mr. Rosenstein, under your watch? Where was the policy not to answer this committee’s questions? Did it come from you? Did it come from the Attorney General? Did it come from the White House? Did it come from OMB? Why were QFRs never answered? Where was that policy founded?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:24:55)
Senator, I recall answering some correspondence.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse: (01:25:00)
Letters are a whole separate issue. I’ve got a whole separate case on those, but I’m focusing now on committee questions for the record. Why not? Where’s the policy from? Who told you not to answer these questions? Where did that come from? Where is that in the department?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:25:15)
I know that I testified in my confirmation hearing, which would have been in March of 2017, and I answered questions for the record, I believe, including there may have been some from you after that hearing.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse: (01:25:26)
These are all the ones I listed, and in all of them, no questions for the record were answered. That’s a lot of hearings with no questions for the record answered. Where did that come from?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:25:35)
I don’t believe that I testified at any of those hearings, Senator, so it’s just not fresh in my mind.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse: (01:25:39)
No, I’m thinking that there’s a policy at the Department of Justice, not to answer committee QFRs. That’s the only explanation, unless you think it’s a coincidence that in all those hearings, no QFRs got answered. Something’s up, and it makes me really frustrated, and we sent a letter to Chairman Graham, all of us, on February 11 about this, of this year, because it has gotten so frustrating that there is a policy somewhere in this administration not to answer committee QFRs. And now we can’t even get a QFR answer, out of the clear blue sky, the first thing we’re investigating is the exact thing that the Trump campaign wants us to investigate. The only time we ask for anything from this department is when it’s a political errand, and every other time you can’t even get a decent QFR answered, ever. And I could go through the letters that I haven’t gotten any answer to either, but there is a stonewall, and we should not be selective about whose information gets through the stonewall at the department, and this, Mr. Rosenstein, happened on your watch. My time is up.
Lindsey Graham: (01:26:52)
Senator Whitehouse, Senator Cruz.
Senator Ted Cruz: (01:26:55)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse: (01:26:57)
Oh, may I ask a QFR?
Senator Ted Cruz: (01:26:59)
Yes, you may.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse: (01:27:01)
As to what the heck is going on with our non-response to QFRs, that one may go in the bin at the Department of Justice as well, with all the others that never get answered, but the day will come-
Lindsey Graham: (01:27:15)
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse: (01:27:16)
… when there is a Democrat Department of Justice and Attorney General. The day will come when there is a Democrat sitting in that chair, and a policy that you don’t ever get QFRs answered by the department that we oversee is not a good policy. It is someone’s policy, and I want it stopped.
Lindsey Graham: (01:27:39)
Thank you very much. And as to the hearing yesterday, there were a lot of questions asked about COVID-19 and prisons, and I expect hopefully those will get answered, particularly Senator Blumenthal’s questions about their court case. So point well made. Senator Cruz.
Senator Ted Cruz: (01:28:00)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Prior to 2016 and 2017, the worst known instance of abuse of power by an administration was Richard Nixon’s abuse of his administration to target his political enemies. By any measure, what the Obama-Biden Administration did in 2016 and 2017 makes everything Richard Nixon even contemplated pale in comparison, and Richard Nixon rightfully faced impeachment and ultimately resigned as a consequence of his misconduct. The evidence that has been made public has made clear that the Obama Administration targeted his political opponents, targeted President Trump and his campaign, unleashed, weaponized, and politicized the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the intelligence community, and that the decision making to do so went right up to the very top.
Senator Ted Cruz: (01:28:58)
We know that on January 4, 2017, the FBI concluded in the document that has just been released that General Michael Flynn was, quote, “no longer a viable candidate to be part of this larger case. Their investigation did not yield any information on which to predicate further investigative efforts. The FBI is closing this investigation.” That was January 4, 2017. The next day, James Comey, the Director of the FBI, is sitting in the Oval Office with Barack Obama, with Joe Biden, and James Comey, according to a memo from Susan Rice, one of the most remarkable CYA memos written in Washington, written on her last day in office, an email to herself, saying, “By the way, this investigation into the National Security Advisor coming into the new office, the President has said, do it, quote, ‘by the book.'” She says “by the book” three times. James Comey tells the President, “We’re investigating Michael Flynn by the book.” Well, unless the book is Richard Nixon’s Watergate, the day before the FBI said they were closing the investigation, and there’s James Comey telling Barack Obama, “We’re going after General Flynn, a decorated three star General, the incoming National Security Advisor of the President.” With Joe Biden sitting right there, nodding along. Joe Biden himself personally unmasks Michael Flynn’s name.
Senator Ted Cruz: (01:30:38)
That’s the world you came into, Mr. Rosenstein. That’s the Department of Justice you came into, where it had been corrupted and politicized. You’ve read the Inspector General Report, Mr. Rosenstein?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:30:50)
I’ve read most of it. Yes, sir.
Senator Ted Cruz: (01:30:52)
You’ve read the 17 repeated material misstatements documented within the Inspector General Report?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:31:00)
I have read that. Yes, sir.
Senator Ted Cruz: (01:31:00)
You’re aware one of those is a lawyer fraudulently altering an email, creating counterfeit evidence that became the predicate for a sworn statement in the FISA court?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:31:15)
That is in the Inspector General’s report. Yes, sir.
Senator Ted Cruz: (01:31:18)
Are you aware of other instances the Department of Justice employees fraudulently creating evidence to submit to court?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:31:26)
Every instance that I’m aware of, Senator, would be appropriately investigated, and hopefully appropriate action would be taken.
Senator Ted Cruz: (01:31:34)
Mr. Rosenstein, on May 17, you appointed Bob Mueller the Special Counsel. On June 29, you signed the third FISA application. On August 2, you signed the second scope application. You came into a profoundly politicized world, and yet all of this was allowed to go forward under your leadership. That unfortunately leads to only two possible conclusions: Either that you were complicit in the wrongdoing, which I don’t believe was the case, or that your performance of your duties was grossly negligent. Was there any-
Rod Rosenstein: (01:32:12)
[crosstalk 01:32:12] that standard, Senator.
Senator Ted Cruz: (01:32:14)
Was there any more important case the Department of Justice had than an investigation into whether the President of the United States is a Russian asset colluding against the United States?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:32:27)
Well, that’s the way you’re characterizing the investigation, Senator. There was certainly lots of important investigations, but I viewed this as one of the most important.
Senator Ted Cruz: (01:32:34)
Okay. You just told Senator Lee you read the FISA application. At the time you read the FISA application, did you know that the primary source behind the Steele dossier had disavowed it and said it’s not true?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:32:46)
At the time I reviewed it, and I’m not sure I read every word, but I certainly reviewed it, and no, I did not know that.
Senator Ted Cruz: (01:32:52)
At the time you reviewed it, did you know that there was significant exculpatory material that was omitted from it?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:32:59)
Senator Ted Cruz: (01:33:00)
At the time you reviewed it, did you know that a lawyer on your staff had fraudulently altered material as a basis for a FISA application?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:33:08)
That lawyer was not on my staff, but I was not aware of it.
Senator Ted Cruz: (01:33:10)
It was on the FBI staff.
Rod Rosenstein: (01:33:11)
Senator Ted Cruz: (01:33:12)
And the FBI reports to the Deputy Attorney General.
Rod Rosenstein: (01:33:14)
Senator Ted Cruz: (01:33:15)
At the time that you reviewed it, did you know the Steele dossier was paid for by the DNC?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:33:22)
I don’t believe so.
Senator Ted Cruz: (01:33:25)
Did you ask any of those questions?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:33:29)
Well, the questions I would have asked, Senator, would have been, “Is the information represented to me verified?” And I would anticipate, Senator, that if somebody knew that it wasn’t, or that there was some issue about the credibility of the informant or the accuracy of the evidence [crosstalk 01:33:47]-
Senator Ted Cruz: (01:33:46)
Mr. Rosenstein, when you’re going into a department that has been politicized, I understand it’s easier just not to rock the boat, not to question the people there, but you were the acting Attorney General of the United States and had a responsibility not to allow political targeting.
Senator Ted Cruz: (01:34:04)
Let me ask you, did it strike you as strange, and my time has expired, so I’m going to leave this as the last question. Did it strike you as strange that the FBI and the Department of Justice was going after a three star general, the incoming National Security Advisor to the President, who they already said they were going to dismiss the case against, and their predicate for all of this is the Logan Act, which you know perfectly well is an unconstitutional law that no one has ever been prosecuted under in the history of the Department of Justice, and should have been laughed out of the room in any responsible department of justice. If someone had suggested, “We’re going to go after the incoming National Security Advisor for violating the Logan Act, which says an American citizen, can’t talk to a foreign leader,” I guarantee you today, right now, John Kerry is violating the Logan Act.
Senator Ted Cruz: (01:34:57)
Now, fortunately, it’s an unconstitutional law, so who cares? Why did you not laugh this out of the room? And why didn’t you get to answers on this? Why did you let this pile of partisan lies consume the country?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:35:12)
Senator, I appreciate you’ve packed a lot into your question, and I know the time is limited. First of all, Senator, I think it’s not accurate to say that we didn’t rock the boat. As you may be aware, when I went into that job with Attorney General Sessions, we actually made a lot of significant changes. It wasn’t just about the Russia Investigation. There was a lot more going on in the Department of Justice, and so I would not have been reluctant in any way to rock the boat if I believed that there was something improper going on.
Rod Rosenstein: (01:35:41)
With regard to General Flynn, to take that particular issue, Senator, my understanding at the time that I arrived was that General Flynn had lied to the Vice President and to FBI agents, and that I believe was the primary issue that was under investigation at the time. I didn’t know all the background that appears in the pleading that was filed by-
Rod Rosenstein: (01:36:03)
I didn’t know all the background that appears in the pleading that was filed by the US attorney in DC.
Senator Ted Cruz: (01:36:05)
But you didn’t bother to ask. You didn’t actually bother to drill in and say, “Show me the background.” You know, this may be the most important case we’ve gotten the whole country. Let me actually do more than just rubber stamp the document put in front of me.
Rod Rosenstein: (01:36:16)
I don’t believe I was rubber stamping Senator and I fully appreciate your concern. And obviously you always wish you could have done more, but we did have 70,000 cases filed that year. I devoted more attention to this case than to anything else, but I still didn’t know everything. And so that’s the best I can give you Senator.
Lindsey Graham: (01:36:36)
Senator Klobuchar. Thank you.
Senator Amy Klobuchar: (01:36:40)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Welcome back, Mr. Rosenstein.
Rod Rosenstein: (01:36:44)
Thank you, Senator.
Senator Amy Klobuchar: (01:36:45)
I have made very clear that I think that it is absurd to be having this hearing. I know we’re going to have a hearing, which I appreciate on criminal justice reform in a few weeks after the murder of George Floyd in my state. But I think we could also be doing so many other things on the pandemic, on the effect that the pandemic has had an immigration policy, but we are here today. I thought that was absurd, but then I heard Senator Cruz and I have to say to compare Richard Nixon to Barack Obama.
Senator Amy Klobuchar: (01:37:17)
Richard Nixon, who left the white house in disgrace to compare him with President Obama who left the White House with grace and with dignity, something we’ve missed very much, especially this week when we saw the president of the United States using the Bible as a prop in front of a church in Washington, D.C. after the justice department, tear-gassed peaceful protestors in order to set the stage for that press conference.
Senator Amy Klobuchar: (01:37:44)
No, I would like the record to reflect that this comparison is not only wrong today between Richard Nixon and Barack Obama. It will never stand the test of time. So let me start out with this, Mr. Rosenstein. You appointed Special Counsel Robert Mueller to oversee the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation to ensure that it was conducted independently in May of 2017.
Senator Amy Klobuchar: (01:38:09)
The Special Counsel found that Russian interference in our election was sweeping and systematic and that the investigation as you know ultimately resulted in 34 indictments of individuals and the convictions of six of President Trump’s associates and advisors on federal charges.
Senator Amy Klobuchar: (01:38:26)
Last May you said that there was, “Overwhelming evidence that Russian operatives hacked American computers and defrauded American citizens” as “Part of a comprehensive Russian strategy to influence elections, promote social discord and undermine America.” Do you still agree with that statement?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:38:46)
Yes, I do.
Senator Amy Klobuchar: (01:38:47)
Are you aware of any facts that call into question the finding in the Special Counsel’s report that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping in systematic fashion or that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome? Are there any facts that dispute that?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:39:08)
You are quoting from the report, Senator, I certainly believe that a Director Mueller’s report accurately reflects his conclusions. Obviously, I don’t know what’s in the mind of the Russians. We can only evaluate the evidence that we have and that’s what the intelligence suggests.
Senator Amy Klobuchar: (01:39:23)
Okay. Are you aware of any facts that call into question the assessment of FBI Director Wray, which is by the way, backed up by many, many Trump intelligence officials that Russia’s interference in our elections is ongoing that it’s interference in the 2018 midterms in Christopher Wray’s words, “Were a dress rehearsal for the 2020 elections.” Are you aware of anything that would lead you to think that Russian interference in our elections going forward has stopped?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:39:51)
I am not aware of anything that would suggest it stopped. And while I was an office, Senator, I actually spent a fair amount of time working with Director Wray and other officials to try to combat foreign interference.
Senator Amy Klobuchar: (01:40:01)
Okay. And given the threat to our democracy posed by foreign election interference, while we, by the way have the threat of voter suppression due to this pandemic and other laws, it is critical that we remain focused on the facts. The Inspector General’s report found on page 17, that the investigation, the Crossfire Hurricane investigation was open to determine whether people associated with the Trump campaign were coordinating with the Russian government. Do you disagree with that?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:40:32)
That is my understanding, Senator.
Senator Amy Klobuchar: (01:40:34)
And so we are clear, coordinating with a foreign power as part of a political campaign, especially a foreign adversary like Russia would pose a threat to national security. Is that correct?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:40:45)
It would if it were true. Yes.
Senator Amy Klobuchar: (01:40:46)
Okay. And do you agree that interference in our elections by foreign government constitutes a national security threat?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:40:53)
Senator Amy Klobuchar: (01:40:54)
Okay. So that is why I would like to look forward and when you look forward, what do you see in front of us? You see this ongoing threat to our democracy, which is why I have advocated so strongly along with Senator Lankford, Senator Graham, so many for backup paper ballots in our election. It is part of the reason why I think that the mail-in ballots, in addition to protecting the health and safety of voters would protect us from foreign interference. And that’s why you have Republican-dominated States like Utah have used these mail- in ballots. It would be helpful in that way.
Senator Amy Klobuchar: (01:41:32)
And one other policy idea here is that we need to do as we continue to see ongoing attempts by foreign governments to influence our elections on social media. Senator Graham and I and Senator Warren have put forward the Honest Ads Act. Are you familiar with that bill?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:41:52)
No, I’m not.
Senator Amy Klobuchar: (01:41:53)
Okay, well that is a bill that would require the same rules and disclaimer rules for political ads that we have for ads that we see on TV. I would simply require that when someone gets an ad for a political campaign or an issue ad that’s paid for and meets the federal standards that they would in other forums, that you have to have a disclosure on them, and that you have to make a public record of this ad.
Senator Amy Klobuchar: (01:42:22)
And I just want to, again, remind my colleagues of this bill. Because after years, Senator McCain first did this bill with me. It’s still sitting dormant. And I think that when you look at what the Senate Intelligence Committee just recommended was that we should bring our laws into the 21st century to ensure that voters are able to know who is paying to influence our political system at the very least when we know we also have unpaid influence. Would you think it would be helpful to know who is paying to influence our political system?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:42:56)
Senator, I’m very lucky to express a view about your legislation on the spur of the moment, but I’ll be happy to take a look at it.
Senator Amy Klobuchar: (01:43:02)
I really appreciate that. Thank you.
Lindsey Graham: (01:43:05)
Senator Holly: (01:43:07)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I just want to start by noting my surprise to hear from my democratic colleagues that the Mueller Report is now of no consequence after what they put this country through for years on end, endless investigations, millions of dollars spent, an impeachment inquiry against the president of the United States. And now we hear from person after person on that side of the dais that the Mueller Report is of no consequence. No consequence?
Senator Holly: (01:43:36)
I kind of happen to think that the successful weaponization of the FBI by a presidential campaign by the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign for the first time in American history, getting the FBI to submit to a federal court false information, false information, to get a wiretap during a presidential campaign. I kind of think that is a relevant piece of information that maybe ought to be within the jurisdiction and the cognition of this committee.
Senator Holly: (01:44:07)
Of course, now my Democrat friends say there’s nothing to see here. Because now we have one of the largest scandals ever to engulf the FBI and the DOJ. Let me just remind you Mr. Rosenstein about what the FISA Court said when it found out that it had been systematically lied to by the FBI and the Department of Justice. This is what the court said, sua sponte on its own. And I quote, “The FBI’s handling of the Carter Page applications as portrayed in the Inspector General’s report was antithetical to the heightened duty of candor that is owed to the court. The frequency with which these representations made by FBI personnel turned out to be unsupported or contradicted by information in their possession and with which they withheld information detrimental to their case calls into question, whether contained in other FBI applications is reliable.”
Senator Holly: (01:44:58)
In other words, the FISA Court now wonders if it can trust anything that the FBI says, anything. Now you signed off on a FISA application to a federal court and an ex parte proceeding, which means the other side didn’t have any chance to argue it. You signed off on it. It had 17 material misstatements, falsehoods, omissions. You signed off on it. You also said at the time, “You thought it was an above average application.”
Rod Rosenstein: (01:45:25)
Senator Holly: (01:45:26)
How could you sign off on something with this number of misrepresentations that the FISA Court later came back and said, “This destroys our trust in the FBI.” You signed off on it personally. How could this happen?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:45:38)
I approved the submission of it and four federal judges sign off on it too, Senator. Because like me, they believe that the information had been verified and was accurate.
Senator Holly: (01:45:48)
Did they have a duty to verify the information?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:45:50)
No. The agents had a duty to verify.
Senator Holly: (01:45:52)
Oh, so you did not have a duty to verify the information? It’s your name on the application.
Rod Rosenstein: (01:45:56)
Well, I had a duty to make sure it had been verified.
Senator Holly: (01:45:58)
Did you rubber stamp it?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:46:00)
Senator, the deputy attorney general or the attorney general-
Senator Holly: (01:46:03)
Just answer my question. Did you rubber stamp? You said a second ago to Senator Cruz you said you didn’t rubber stamp it.
Rod Rosenstein: (01:46:07)
If you’d like me to explain, I will.
Senator Holly: (01:46:09)
But you also testified to today that you didn’t read it. So I’m curious-
Rod Rosenstein: (01:46:13)
No, I didn’t say.
Senator Holly: (01:46:14)
Would you like us to have your testimony read back to you? You said, “I can’t say that I read it. I don’t think I read every page.” I mean-
Rod Rosenstein: (01:46:21)
Yes. I didn’t say that. Yes.
Senator Holly: (01:46:21)
Okay, so you didn’t rubber stamp it, but you didn’t read it.
Rod Rosenstein: (01:46:23)
You know, Senator, I have to explain the process.
Senator Holly: (01:46:26)
Oh, I think we’re familiar with the process. The OIG gave us the process. By the time it got to you, you had 17 critical errors, falsehoods, omissions, leading a federal court to say, “They have never seen anything like this and they can’t trust anything else the FBI says” and you signed off on it. Let me ask you this. Who are we to hold responsible? You’re saying it’s not you.
Rod Rosenstein: (01:46:46)
No, no. I’m saying Senator that I am accountable for it. But the question is, why did it happen? I’m no longer in the department, but there are people who are there, who I expect will figure out why it happened and will fix the problem. So I’m not trying to deny-
Senator Holly: (01:47:01)
Do you have any theories about what the problem might be?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:47:03)
I only know what the Inspector General’s report reflects, Senator. And again, I’ve been gone for 13 months, so I have no insight.
Senator Holly: (01:47:10)
Wouldn’t you agree with me that a process that is so corrupted, that it resulted in the abuse of a federal court in an ex parte proceeding during a presidential campaign is a threat to American democracy? Is a threat to the integrity of our elections? Would you agree with that?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:47:29)
It’s certainly a threat to the integrity of the judicial system and the FISA process. But I need to explain to you Senator that when you’re running an organization with 115,000 people, you’re not going to be able to personally verify the information.
Senator Holly: (01:47:44)
Oh, I know and that’s why you can’t be held responsible. Whatever the FBI says, they can’t be held responsible. So at the end of the day, it’s nobody’s fault. The FISA Court has been misled. The FISA Court is saying, “We can’t trust anything the FBI says,” but nobody’s to blame for it. So let me just ask you who should we hold responsible? What do you want this committee to do? The other side wants us to do nothing. They don’t want to talk about it. They’re happy for these abuses to go on apparently. What do you suggest that we do?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:48:08)
I think Senator they’re issues of accountability and blame. I’m accountable. I’m here being chastised by you and that’s part of my accountability. But the question is blame, what went wrong? And we need to figure out what went wrong. And I think when you say I signed off on it, it suggests that my responsibility was to actually do the investigation and verify the information, that’s just not the responsibility of the deputy.
Rod Rosenstein: (01:48:32)
Their responsibility is to make sure we’ve got an accurate process in place that guarantees the integrity of the applications.
Senator Holly: (01:48:38)
But that process wasn’t in place.
Rod Rosenstein: (01:48:40)
It turned out that it wasn’t. Exactly. And so if I’m at fault, because I had a reason to know that or should have known that I should be blamed for that. But I just don’t know. I didn’t see that in the IG report. I didn’t see him blaming me or my predecessors. And that’s all I know about it, Senator. So I certainly am accountable for it, but in order to solve this problem, yelling at me is not going to solve the problem. We need to figure out what happened. Did people engage in misconduct or the systemic problems and fix them? So it won’t happen again.
Senator Holly: (01:49:07)
Yeah, of course. Well, thank you Mr. Rosenstein for your service. And we’ll certainly I’m sure this committee will take every pain not to hold you accountable or responsible. Apparently, we can’t hold anybody accountable or responsible, Mr. Chairman. So I don’t know what this committee is left to do, but I do know this. What has happened is unacceptable. And we’ve heard the FBI director sit in the seat that you’re in, Mr. Rosenstein and say, “He’s not accountable.” He says, “He’s not making any changes.” In fact, he’s done nothing. The current FBI director to address this situation.
Senator Holly: (01:49:33)
Nobody seems to want to do anything. Meanwhile, we’re in another presidential election year. I look forward to hearing about how the FBI has weaponized the FISA Court again in this election year,.who knows? We’ll be hearing about that in two or three years from now. This circumstance is simply not acceptable, Mr. Chairman and that’s why I’m glad we’re doing this, but we’ve got to hold somebody accountable for it.
Rod Rosenstein: (01:49:53)
Senator, as I said, and I agree with you that [crosstalk 01:49:54] I’m sorry, Mr. Chairman, if I could just finish the answer. Again, there are questions of accountability and questions of blame, and it is the responsibility of Director Wray to solve these problems. And I don’t know, I’m not familiar with the hearing that you made reference to, but I certainly hope that he will solve these problems.
Lindsey Graham: (01:50:12)
So here’s what’s happening. We have recommendations from Horowitz how to make sure this doesn’t happen again. We’ve got Mr. Durham looking at criminality and it’s up to this committee to come up with a process, hopefully bipartisan, where we can make sure this doesn’t happen again and we’re on it. I think it’s important. And I think it’s important that Senator Coons be called on right now.
Rod Rosenstein: (01:50:33)
Mr. Chairman, if I could just follow up though, because I’m accountable. I feel accountable for anything that went wrong in the department on my watch, but I think the issue is how do we fix the problem?
Lindsey Graham: (01:50:42)
I understand what you’re saying. Senator Coons.
Senator Chris Coons: (01:50:45)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you. Let me make sure this is on. Mr. Chairman. Mr. Rosenstein, thank you for your testimony today and for your service. We have some important questions in front of us. As we know, President Trump has often repeatedly and loudly called the entire Russia investigation, a witch hunt. But Inspector General Horowitz found the FBI had an authorized purpose when it opened Crossfire Hurricane, which was grounded in protecting our national security and investigating federal crimes. Do you agree with that conclusion?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:51:25)
Yes, I do.
Senator Chris Coons: (01:51:26)
Do you believe the whole Russia investigation was a fraud and a witch hunt?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:51:31)
Senator Chris Coons: (01:51:32)
In your oversight role over the Special Counsel’s investigation.
Lindsey Graham: (01:51:44)
See if he can get him a new mic there.
Senator Chris Coons: (01:51:46)
Is my microphone working at all? We’ll try that. Thank you very much. Excuse me. Let me try it again. That’s much better. If I may, Mr. Chairman, I’m just going to start again.
Lindsey Graham: (01:52:02)
Senator Chris Coons: (01:52:03)
Thank you, Mr. Rosenstein, thank you for your testimony and for your service and for your parents before us today. President Trump has called the Russia investigation, a witch hunt, which is in sharp contrast with Inspector General Horowitz, who concluded that the FBI had an authorized purpose when it opened Crossfire Hurricane, which was grounded in protecting our national security and investigating federal crimes. Do you agree with that conclusion?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:52:29)
I agree with Inspector Horowitz’s conclusion. Yes, sir.
Senator Chris Coons: (01:52:32)
In your oversight role over Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation, did you ever raise a concern about the appropriateness of the investigation and prosecution of Michael Flynn?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:52:42)
I was not aware of any reason to question the appropriateness at that time.
Senator Chris Coons: (01:52:46)
You were the acting attorney general for that investigation. Did you approve of his guilty plea?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:52:51)
Yes, sir. Based on my understanding that the evidence demonstrated his guilt and he and his attorneys admitted his guilt.
Senator Chris Coons: (01:52:57)
Did you ever raise any concerns about whether Flynn’s false statements were material to the FBI’s national security investigation?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:53:04)
I was not aware of any issue.
Senator Chris Coons: (01:53:06)
And are you aware of any precedent for the Department of Justice moving to dismiss a case after a defendant pled guilty to lying to the FBI?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:53:15)
I don’t know the answer to that, Senator. There may be. I’m not personally aware, but the department certainly has moved to dismiss cases in the past.
Senator Chris Coons: (01:53:24)
You authorized filing the indictment in the Roger Stone case as well, correct?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:53:28)
Senator Chris Coons: (01:53:29)
And a jury convicted Roger Stone of seven felony counts.
Rod Rosenstein: (01:53:32)
If I could just clarify. I believe that I don’t believe I was acting attorney general at the time the Stone case was filed. So I’m certainly aware of it, but I don’t know as a legal matter I don’t know that I authorized it.
Senator Chris Coons: (01:53:46)
In any event, a jury ultimately convicted Roger Stone of seven felony counts in the indictment. Do you think Roger Stone committed those crimes of which he was convicted?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:53:58)
Based upon the jury’s verdict, yes.
Senator Chris Coons: (01:54:00)
And in the Roger Stone case, career prosecutors filed a sentencing motion and the political leadership of the department filed a different motion within a day. The career attorneys then withdrew from the case and one went further and resigned from the department. Are you aware of any other recent case where political appointees filed a sentencing recommendation that is so markedly different from what career prosecutors had filed?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:54:24)
I understand your question, Senator. The only issue I would take with it is that technically every pleading we filed contains the name of the US attorney. You’re focusing on whose signature appears on the document, but all those documents are filed in the name of the US attorney and I considered US attorneys responsible for them.
Senator Chris Coons: (01:54:42)
Do you think a president should publicly criticize question or attack ongoing Department of Justice investigations?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:54:49)
I’m not going to comment on the president, Senator as I think I’ve made clear. I understood the president’s frustration. I don’t think it’s my job to comment on how he articulates that.
Senator Chris Coons: (01:55:01)
Well, the president has recently referred repeatedly to something he calls Obamagate, which he has repeatedly said is worse than Watergate. And repeated efforts by members of this committee by journalists to get any clarity or definition about what Obamagate is, have come up without any clarity. Are you aware of any evidence that former President Obama has committed any federal crime?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:55:27)
I am not.
Senator Chris Coons: (01:55:30)
There’s been a lot of discussion in this hearing in particular about the Carter Page FISA warrant and the findings in the Inspector General’s report that I think are worthy of concern and focus. Carter Page though, was not indicted in the Mueller investigation, correct?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:55:46)
Correct. Not indicted and presumed innocent. I think it’s unfortunate that that FISA information was leaked.
Senator Chris Coons: (01:55:52)
In fact, by the end of it, the president’s campaign manager, deputy campaign manager, national security advisor, foreign policy advisor, personal attorney, and longtime political strategists were all either convicted of crimes or pled guilty in federal court. You approved of the significant investigative steps in those cases and approved the filing of those charges. Is that correct?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:56:16)
As I said, I don’t know that I was there for the last one, but I believe all the charges that were filed were legitimate.
Senator Chris Coons: (01:56:23)
And in January 2020, you were quoted in the Washington Post saying, “Certainly in retrospect, there are things I might’ve done differently, but I think we got all the big issues right.” Do you still think that you got the big issues right?
Rod Rosenstein: (01:56:36)
Yes, sir. And I wasn’t referring just to Russia. There were a lot of big issues obviously, and I believe we did. We being the team we had in place at the department that I believe we got the big right.
Senator Chris Coons: (01:56:48)
Well, I’ll just close by saying I too am questioning the scope and the reach of the dedication of time of this committee to reinvestigating what I think Inspector General Horowitz has thoroughly investigated. We are in the middle of three simultaneous national crises, a public health epidemic, an economic sharp, short downturn, and understandable nationwide protests, inflamed by anger at the brutal and public killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Senator Chris Coons: (01:57:20)
There are many other pressing issues that I hope this committee will soon turn to. And I appreciate your testimony before us today.
Rod Rosenstein: (01:57:26)
Thank you, Senator.
Lindsey Graham: (01:57:27)
Thanks Senator Coons and I assure you we will get to other issues, but I guess just say this for a call on our next Senator. The FBI was told in January that dossier was not reliable, hearsay bar talk by the primary sub source gave Mr. Steele all the information. And the warrant was renewed on two occasions after that in April and June. He says he didn’t know about exculpatory information being withheld.
Lindsey Graham: (01:57:58)
I think it’s okay to ask everybody who signed the warrant, did you know? Is this really one FBI agent in the bottom of the basement somewhere who did all this by themselves? I don’t think so. Senator Tillis.
Senator Thom Tillis: (01:58:13)
Thank you. Thank you. I may have the same problem as. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate you holding this hearing. It’s remarkable to me that people on the other side of the dais here thinks that this is a waste of time. I think that this is a very important part of oversight and preservation of integrity of our justice system. By the way, Senator Durbin’s not here. I love baseball too and the reruns are pretty good.
Senator Thom Tillis: (01:58:49)
As a matter of fact, I got emotional watching the sixth game of a series with Atlanta until I realized that it was about 20 years ago. But the the league here in the Senate’s working. Senator Durbin’s comments would suggest we’re not doing anything else. This is one hearing of several hearings we’re doing this week. I would remind everybody, we had a hearing making sure that we’re doing the very best we can for our prison population on COVID-19 response just yesterday.
Senator Thom Tillis: (01:59:18)
I would also talk about hearings on implementing the CARES Act and the banking committee happened this week. That was another game that got played yesterday. I would also talk about a number of other hearings that are specifically focused on doing everything that we can to keep running. I for one thing that although our leader McConnell has been criticized for us being here, it’s remarkable to me.
Senator Thom Tillis: (01:59:43)
On the one hand, we have people saying, “Shame on you for being here” and on the other hand saying, “Shame on you for not doing anything else.” We’re doing a hell of a lot here. And a lot of it’s focused on the COVID response, but the integrity of the Department of Justice and the FBI I think is probably worthy of having a discussion over. That’s the discussion we’re having here. Also, heard some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle speak dismissively with the idea of a hoax or a witch hunt.
Senator Thom Tillis: (02:00:07)
Well, I decided to go on the Oxford Online so I had a reasonable source and a hoax is described as a malicious deception. A lot of what we’re talking about here are malicious deceptions or omissions. Let’s remove deception and omission. The omission of a truth in some of the online dictionaries is actually tantamount to a lie. A witch hunt is described as a campaign directed against a person or a group holding unpopular views. While we’ve seen the email transmissions by some of the people who were responsible for the FISA warrants. Looks like to me, they had a different political view, viva la resistance. So I actually believe that hoax and witch hunt may be contextually accurate to describe some of the things that went on with this Mueller investigation. And let me tell you, this is pretty personal to me because Mr. Rosenstein, you may remember that I went on a bill with my colleague across the aisle to make sure that we were able to keep Mueller in place and to continue the investigation. I did that premised on the assumption that I could trust the people that were doing the damn investigation. And now I know I couldn’t. I still stand by the fundamental position that I took, but I’m a little bit angry with what’s happened here. And Mr. Rosenstein, in your opening comments, you mentioned that you had three handpicked teams, three handpicked teams that were working on this investigation. And based on my research, I believe that Page, Strzok and Clinesmith were on one or all of those teams. Now, I also believe that by virtue of them not providing information to you, that they’re guilty of a hoax. They’re guilty of a malicious deception, information that they had access to.
Senator Thom Tillis: (02:02:01)
Now, a handpicked team, Mr. Rosenstein, would you say that you’re trying to pick some of the better players? You’re taking people off the bench that you consider to be some of the better ones in that department?
Rod Rosenstein: (02:02:10)
I would hope that that’s what they did.
Senator Thom Tillis: (02:02:12)
So do you think that these people would have had enough training and experience to know that withholding that information to their boss was probably something that was a bad idea? I mean, does this rise to a level where we can say, “Strzok, Page, Clinesmith, it was just an oversight.” The damning information we found in the Horowitz Report, can we honestly believe that these highly trained people could have just said, “Gosh, boss, I forgot about that material fact when I gave you information for something for you to sign.”
Rod Rosenstein: (02:02:40)
Senator, I do not know that it was Strzok, Page and Clinesmith, I don’t believe those allegations are in the IG report, but whoever it is, I think should be held accountable.
Senator Thom Tillis: (02:02:49)
I do too and I think it goes far beyond disciplinary action. The other thing that you said was with respect to McCabe, and you said, “He was not completely forthcoming.” And I think you may have alluded in an answer to one of the questions asked by my colleagues that at least ethically, maybe he had information that would have been helpful for you to have. That sounds like a deception to me too. That sounds like the omission of information.
Senator Thom Tillis: (02:03:18)
This is a smart man, a very capable, well-educated experienced person. Why on Earth would something like that with all the attention being placed on it could any reasonable person think other than the fact that it was omitted because it could have materially affected your view of what had gone before?
Rod Rosenstein: (02:03:37)
Senator, I don’t want to speculate about what was anybody else’s state of mind.
Senator Thom Tillis: (02:03:43)
Well, I will. And I think it was because they were trying to move towards an outcome that fit what some people in the lower levels of the organization had in mind. You can’t read the emails between some of these people. I’m not an attorney. I’m not a solicitor general. I’m not a prosecutor, but it doesn’t take a law degree to recognize that these were not mistakes. These were intentional actions and it’s why this hearing, it’s why the subpoenas, and why this investigation needs to go forward.
Senator Thom Tillis: (02:04:16)
Because to your point in your opening statement, the vast majority of people in law enforcement, the vast majority of people in the DOJ and the FBI have been disgraced as a result of the at worst incompetent actions and at best and at worst, the malicious actions of a handful of a few, and we have to get to the bottom of it.
Lindsey Graham: (02:04:36)
Senator Richard Blumenthal: (02:04:39)
Thanks Mr. Chairman, I want to join as a former prosecutor as US attorney and the state attorney general in expressing my agreement that we owe a great debt of gratitude to the men and women in state and local police and the FBI and law enforcement generally, as we do to our United States military that are helping to keep us safe and free.
Senator Richard Blumenthal: (02:05:11)
And my fear is that that immense power may be misused by political leaders who apply them in ways that in fact, interfere with our freedoms, our constitutionally guaranteed right. And that’s one of the reasons why I will join next week with my colleague, Senator Kaine and offering amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act. That would restrict the president’s power to misuse that military and police force. In fact, to federalize and militarized law enforcement.
Senator Richard Blumenthal: (02:05:53)
And that’s why also I will introduce measures that would restrict the over-broad and virtually undefined powers of the president under the Insurrection Act so that he will be held accountable. And while we’re talking about reform and the Chairman has said, “We should be looking forward.” Let’s talk about FISA reform and if we’re looking for ways to improve and that law and prevent any sorts of errors in the future, why not adopt those reforms?
Senator Richard Blumenthal: (02:06:28)
I’ve advocated them. I’m looking for Republican partners in that effort, as I did under President Obama when I first suggested for example, that there be an adversarial process in the FISA Process to make sure that any errors were eliminated. The Chairman has said that the Mueller investigation went “off the rails.” If that investigation was off the rails, that’s a pretty remarkable train to deliver the result that it did. And those results included 199 criminal charges, 37 indictments, nine convictions, five prison sentences.
Senator Richard Blumenthal: (02:07:18)
Let me ask you Mr. Rosenstein and I should just remind you at the very outset, I was the only member of the committee who voted against you. I was-
Rod Rosenstein: (02:07:31)
I’m well-aware of that, Senator.
Senator Richard Blumenthal: (02:07:32)
I was one of the six on the floor of the Senate who voted against you and my reason was solely that you refused to commit that you would appoint a Special Counsel, and then you did, and I lauded you for it. And I defended you for preserving the independence of that investigation. Let me ask you, is it your testimony today that had you known then what you know now …
Senator Richard Blumenthal: (02:08:03)
… known then what you know now that you would not have appointed Robert Mueller to serve as Special Counsel.
Rod Rosenstein: (02:08:09)
I believe at the time, senator, and I still believe it was the right decision under the circumstances. I recognize people can criticize me for it. That’s the consequence of being in these jobs. You make decisions, and then you get criticized for them, but I believe it was the right decision at the time.
Senator Richard Blumenthal: (02:08:24)
Is it your testimony today that if you had known then what you know now that you would have intervened in or stop that investigation?
Rod Rosenstein: (02:08:34)
Based on what I know, senator, no, but I don’t know everything, and I’m open to the possibility there’s more information that may come out, and if more information emerges-
Senator Richard Blumenthal: (02:08:46)
Well, let me give you-
Rod Rosenstein: (02:08:48)
… [crosstalk 02:08:48].
Senator Richard Blumenthal: (02:08:48)
Let me give you, Mr. Rosenstein, a quote that I think is dispositive today and dispositive probably for the future. It comes from the Inspector General whose report you have in front of you.
Rod Rosenstein: (02:09:04)
Senator Richard Blumenthal: (02:09:07)
Quote, “We don’t take issue with any part of the Special Counsel’s report.” Let me repeat it. “We don’t take issue with any part of the Special Counsel’s report.” That was his testimony before this committee in December when he presented his report. After all of the umbrage and outrage and heated political rhetoric, the report and its conclusions and findings remain on challenged by the Inspector General. Would you agree?
Rod Rosenstein: (02:09:49)
I do, and I think it was important, senator, to establish that an independent investigation found that the Russians sought to interfere in the election and that no Americans conspired with them. I think those are very important findings, and I am grateful to the folks who helped us reach that conclusion.
Senator Richard Blumenthal: (02:10:03)
Far from saying that the Mueller investigation is of no consequence, in fact, it is of immense and historic consequences because it shows, as you said, and I’m going to quote you, “There was overwhelming evidence that Russian operatives hacked American computers and defrauded American citizens, and that is only the tip of the iceberg of a comprehensive Russian strategy to influence elections, promote social discord, and undermine America.” That was your characterization of the report. That is immensely important. What we’re saying is of no consequence is in fact all of this stuff about Carter Page, about the Steele dossier, because the end of the day, the reason why that report is of consequence is it shows that the Russians interfered and the Trump campaign welcomed it.
Rod Rosenstein: (02:11:14)
Senator, I think it’s important to recognize, and I believe I was consistent throughout my tenure as Deputy Attorney General and trying to make this point, that the Russians are on the Russian side. They don’t affiliate with the Republican and the Democrat party. They’re on the Russian side, and they are an adversary for interfering in our election. That offends and should offend everybody regardless of your politics.
Senator Richard Blumenthal: (02:11:37)
The reason why we’re here today really is to deflect attention from an economic crisis, a healthcare emergency, demonstrations in our streets and communities that legitimately ask for justice. If we want to fix the problem, what we should do is FISA reform, not rehash a set of allegations that is, in fact, of no consequence because the reason why you began the investigation and why the department began the investigation was, first, the Russian government hack the Democratic National Committee, second, WikiLeaks published 20,000 emails stolen from the DNC, and third, a Trump campaign official bragged to a foreign government that Russia told the Trump campaign it could help them prove the anonymous release of damaging information on Hillary Clinton. That’s what set off the investment.
Rod Rosenstein: (02:12:51)
Well, senator, the only issue I might take with that is that I didn’t begin the investigation. I did end the investigation, but the investigation had begun nine months before I arrived.
Senator Richard Blumenthal: (02:12:59)
But those are the reasons that the investigation began, correct?
Rod Rosenstein: (02:13:05)
I wasn’t there, so I can’t attest to that.
Mr. Chairman: (02:13:09)
Senator Ernst: (02:13:11)
Thank you very much. I appreciate you being here today, Mr. Rosenstein, and for appearing before the committee today. I am not a lawyer. I’m not going to apologize for that. I appreciate some of the eloquent speeches that we have heard here earlier that we have heard a lot of passion coming out of a lot of people, and I appreciate that. I’m just here as an American and as an Iowan. Most Iowans aren’t lawyers, but I can tell you that most Iowans are sitting back, whether they’re watching C-SPAN, Fox News, CNN, whatever today, and they’re saying, “What the heck has gone on in these institutions?”
Senator Ernst: (02:13:59)
I was a kid watching CBS or whatever back home cross-legged in front of my TV and watching all these law enforcement shows and thinking, “God, how awesome is the FBI?” To a small rural farm kid, that’s a big deal to see those blue jackets with those yellow letters. It really is very awe-inspiring, but what we have seen in the last couple of years has really tarnished the FBI’s, their reputation. It’s tarnish DOJ’s reputation. I don’t know that a lot of kids nowadays are looking at the FBI and saying, “Wow, someday I’d love to be wearing that blue jacket,” because there are some real issues there that need to be addressed, not just by prosecutors and others, but there are answers that need to be had for the American people, and I’m sorely disappointed in everything that’s gone on.
Senator Ernst: (02:15:00)
I’m glad that we’re having this hearing. Many of my colleagues across the diocese would like us to believe that we can’t walk and chew gum at the same time here. For heaven’s sakes, we have convenience store clerks that are working every day through the pandemic, essential workers. I think that here in Congress, we’re essential workers too, and so we should be here addressing some of these issues. I am glad you are here and that you’re willing to step up and take this criticism. I understand you’re not serving as the DAG any longer, but you’re here to answer questions for us, so thank you for doing that. We’ve got to get to the bottom of this.
Senator Ernst: (02:15:37)
Under the Obama-Biden administration and with the holdovers, the integrity of the entire FBI has been called into question by a political element that existed and maybe still exists within the FBI, and this is not something that we can allow to continue to happen. We need the FBI. We need the good guys back. I know that there are still many of them that are out there, but we need the American people to understand this is an agency that is there to protect us. It is, again, the epitome of what we should see in our agencies and that that has been damaged. Whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, Independent or whatever, we really need the old FBI back. We don’t need what we’ve seen in the last number of years.
Senator Ernst: (02:16:33)
Mr. Rosenstein, you were confirmed as the DAG in April of 2017, and we know that you had direct contact with at least one of those FISA applications while serving in that position, and I’m sure that you’ve dealt with many others, but speaking generally on the topic of FISA surveillance, do you typically want the subject to know that you’re conducting an investigation on them?
Rod Rosenstein: (02:17:00)
Absolutely not, for a number of reasons.
Senator Ernst: (02:17:02)
Can you expound-
Rod Rosenstein: (02:17:03)
Senator Ernst: (02:17:04)
… Why not?
Rod Rosenstein: (02:17:04)
Well, number one, it, the whole principle is it’s a covert investigation. The suspects know you’re looking at them, obviously, they’re much less likely to engage in open communications that would allow you to discover what they’re up to, number one, and number two, which as a point that I emphasize, senator, throughout my career, the people we investigate are presumed innocent, and we have a responsibility not to damage them by the investigation. The investigation is not supposed to be the punishment, and so it’s very important not to disclose those investigations.
Senator Ernst: (02:17:36)
Very good. But on June 29th, 2017, you were briefed on and signed then that third FISA renewal application regarding Carter Page extending the FISA surveillance of Page until September of 2017. At that point at which the third FISA renewal application came to your desk for your signature, the news about the surveillance had already been leaked to the media. Is that correct?
Rod Rosenstein: (02:18:05)
Senator Ernst: (02:18:06)
At that point, Carter Page knows that he’s being surveilled, he’s being investigated, but the FBI wants to continue conducting surveillance on him. What did they want to do that?
Rod Rosenstein: (02:18:19)
Because they believed that the extension might generate relevant evidence, the fact that it had already been publicly known, obviously, is a factor you would expect to consider, but my understanding was that not withstanding that, they still believed that the application met the standard for generating relevant evidence, senator, but I think that’s a very insightful and valid question.
Senator Ernst: (02:18:44)
Yeah, it is a very valid question, and so why did it happen then? Did you raise any questions about that when you were briefed on that third application?
Rod Rosenstein: (02:18:56)
Yes. It’s actually-
Senator Ernst: (02:18:57)
What was that conversation?
Rod Rosenstein: (02:18:58)
It’s the fourth application, so it’s the third extension I supposed.
Senator Ernst: (02:19:01)
Third extension, thank you.
Rod Rosenstein: (02:19:05)
But yes, and I was told that they had considered that, and they believed that it warranted one more extension. My understanding was it would be and it in fact was the last extension, but it’s based on the legal standard actually requires the affidavit to set forth new information, and there is new information in the third application, third, pardon me, renewal, fourth application, that appeared to justify extending it.
Senator Ernst: (02:19:31)
Well, to just, again, an average person, not a lawyer, I would say that the reason to continue surveillance on someone that already knows they’re being watched is truly as a political tool. It’s political interference. I think that’s why many of us are so disappointed in the FBI and DOJ, and we have to see those corrections. Again, I am thankful that we are having this hearing. I think it is very pertinent that we address this now as we’re involved in another presidential cycle. We really do have to find and hold accountable those people that committed these crimes, what I see as crimes. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Rod Rosenstein: (02:20:18)
Thank you. Mr. Chairman, if I could just respond to one, two brief points, actually. Number one, with regard to the politic interference suggestion, it was my understanding of the time, senator, that Mr. Page, at least in June of 2017, hadn’t been involved in the campaign, wasn’t working in the administration, so I did not view that as targeting any kind of political information. I understand the question. I think we’re in a different context, obviously, in June than we were in September, but Inspector General Horowitz’s report I think accurately reflects that the application itself appeared to state proper lawful basis, and obviously, I wouldn’t have approved it if I believed it was targeted at getting campaign information.
Rod Rosenstein: (02:21:00)
The second issue, I really appreciate you raising because I grew up with those television shows too. It’s one of the reasons I spent 30 years in law enforcement, and since I’m here and under oath, senator, I think it’s worth taking the opportunity to tell you that I have worked with many, many federal agents over the course of my 30-year career, many attorneys in the Department of Justice, and I want to reassure you, senator, that some of the finest people that I know are employees of the FBI and the Department of Justice, so while these are serious problems that need to be fixed, I want you to know that that confidence that you have in the men and women at the FBI is justified. Thank you.
Senator Ernst: (02:21:37)
Mr. Chairman: (02:21:40)
Senator Hirono, who’ll be joining us telephonically, is up next.
Senator Hirono: (02:21:43)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. We’re in the middle of a pandemic. We’ve now crossed the grim milestone of more than 100,000 people having died from COVID-19. Our country is in turmoil because last week, Minneapolis police officers openly murdered George Floyd in full public view, and what was the crime that he allegedly committed that led officer Derek Chauvin to shove his knee into Mr. Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes? A claim that a $20 bill he used was fake.
Senator Hirono: (02:22:20)
The marks of injustice in this case are painful, traumatic, and unbearable, but sadly, not isolated in our country as we have seen too many times in the past few weeks alone. Racism in our country is clear and longstanding. In the midst of all this turmoil, this committee is having a hearing or something that we have already covered exhaustively, that has already been covered exhaustively by the justice department’s Inspector General in a nearly 500-page report where they interviewed a hundred witnesses, reviewed a million documents, and found no documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivations influenced the FBI’s investigation. Moreover, the investigation was open for an authorized purpose under proper factual predicate.
Senator Hirono: (02:23:18)
In fact, we know that Christopher Wray, our FBI director, has already implemented some 40 corrective steps based on the Inspector General’s report. This hearing waste this committee’s time in a blatant effort to support the president’s conspiracy theories and to help the president’s reelection. How can these aims be proper use of this committee time. Mr. Horowitz… That was the Inspector General.
Senator Hirono: (02:24:02)
Mr. Rosenstein, in September 2018, the New York Times reported that you have suggested wearing a wire to secretly record President Trump after he fired FBI director Comey and link the firing to the Russian investigation. The article also reported that you discussed recruiting cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Mr. Trump from office. On April 26, 2019, the Washington Post reported that after the New York Times report, you were in danger of losing your job. According to the post, when President Trump called you for an explanation, you tried to assure the president you were on his team. When discussing Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation, you reported said, quote, “I give the investigation credibility,” end quote, and, quote, “I can land the plane.” Mr. Rosenstein, did you tell the president, ” I can land the plane,” regarding Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation?
Rod Rosenstein: (02:25:04)
You packed a lot into that question, senator, and I hope you’ll allow me to answer, number one, the idea that I was involved in some conspiracy to get the president is ridiculous, and I think that… I worked for two years with-
Senator Hirono: (02:25:18)
Well, you know what? You can respond to my specific questions regarding the wearing of the wire, but this first question is, did you tell the president, “I can land the plane.”
Rod Rosenstein: (02:25:26)
I do not believe I’ve ever used those words “I can land the plane,” senator, and I have not ever talked about my personal communications with the president, but what I can tell you is what I always said when anyone asks me about the investigation, which was that we would complete it appropriately and expeditiously, and I made no inappropriate commitments.
Senator Hirono: (02:25:44)
Let me ask you the question about did you suggest or hint as secretly recording President Trump?
Rod Rosenstein: (02:25:51)
I did not suggest-
Senator Hirono: (02:25:53)
Yes or no?
Rod Rosenstein: (02:25:53)
… or hint at secretly recording President Trump. I-
Senator Hirono: (02:25:56)
Have you ever discussed with anyone the possibility of invoking the 25th Amendment to remove this president from office?
Rod Rosenstein: (02:26:03)
I have never in any way, suggested that the president should be removed from office under the 25th Amendment, and I can give you a more detailed explanation if you have time.
Senator Hirono: (02:26:14)
We all know that that Attorney General Barr [inaudible 02:26:18] certain characterizations of the Mueller Report, which I would say were not accurate, but he did say in a letter that he wrote to Congress, he said, “Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and I have concluded that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction of justice offense.” Did Attorney General Barr accurately present your view regarding the obstruction of justice-
Rod Rosenstein: (02:26:52)
Senator, I do not-
Senator Hirono: (02:26:53)
Rod Rosenstein: (02:26:53)
… believe that the evidence collected by the Special Counsel warrants prosecution of the president, that is correct.
Senator Hirono: (02:27:00)
Oh, that was not my question. It has nothing to do with whether collusion. We also know that President Trump did not cooperate fully with Mueller’s investigation on that point. Now, he did note a number of obstruction of justice actions by this president. Did you agree with Barr’s letter that you agree that there was no obstruction of justice involved?
Rod Rosenstein: (02:27:30)
I’m sorry, senator, that’s what I tried to answer the first time. The answer is yes, I do not believe that the president committed a crime that warrants prosecution. That’s the issue that we review as prosecutors, but-
Senator Hirono: (02:27:41)
No, excuse me, the Mueller Report said that they did not find enough evidence to go after the president for collusion, and we all know that the Office of Legal Counsel said that a sitting president cannot be indicted, but they did raise a number of obstruction of justice actions by the president and left open the issue of whether or not that would be indictable, but we all know that the Office of Legal Counsel said you can’t indict sitting president.
Senator Hirono: (02:28:11)
By the way, more than 1,000 former federal prosecutors who served under both Republican and Democratic administrations disagreed with you regarding the obstruction of justice issue. They wrote that [inaudible 02:28:25] the President Trump’s conduct described as Special Counsel Mueller’s report would, quote, “Result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice,” end quote. They emphasize that these are not matters of professional judgment. They further noted that to look at these facts and say that a prosecutor could not probably sustain a conviction for obstruction of justice runs counter to logic and experience. Can you explain why you are right and more than 1,000 former DOJ prosecutors are wrong on the issue of obstruction of justice by this president?
Rod Rosenstein: (02:29:06)
Well, senator, we have a lot more than 1,000 former DOJ prosecutors, and I don’t know whether all those people read the entire report or were familiar with all the evidence, but I was, and I believe Attorney General Barr has already explained his conclusion. Senator, I think it’s very important when we complete investigations, we reach conclusions, and the department either determines a case merits prosecution or it does not, and we determined that that case does not merit prosecution. Now, people are free to express contrary opinions, and because the report is probably-
Senator Hirono: (02:29:33)
I think I have to repeat myself again. I’ve read the Mueller report. They did not say that there was not enough evidence with regard to obstruction of justice.
Rod Rosenstein: (02:29:43)
Senator Hirono: (02:29:43)
They [inaudible 02:29:43], and I disagree with Mueller. I don’t know why he didn’t come to the conclusion that there was actually enough evidence on the obstruction of justice issues but that they could not-
Mr. Chairman: (02:29:53)
Senator Hirono: (02:29:54)
… they could not indict the president. That part is really clear.
Mr. Chairman: (02:29:57)
Thank you. Thank you very much.
Rod Rosenstein: (02:29:58)
I think, senator-
Senator Hirono: (02:29:58)
Rod Rosenstein: (02:29:59)
… if I may explain-
Mr. Chairman: (02:29:59)
Rod Rosenstein: (02:29:59)
… Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman: (02:30:00)
No. That’s good. That’s-
Rod Rosenstein: (02:30:01)
I think that’s unfair, senator, because the investigation was concluded. It was appropriately reviewed. No one recommended in favor prosecution, the Attorney General and I determined the prosecution was not warranted, and that is-
Mr. Chairman: (02:30:14)
I think that question has been asked and answered. I appreciate it very much.
Senator Hirono: (02:30:19)
Mr. Chairman: (02:30:19)
Senator Crapo: (02:30:23)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Rosenstein, I want to clear up a few issues here. First of all, once again, we’ve heard here from some in the committee that Inspector Horowitz’s report, which you’ve read and discussed with us today, found that there was no evidence of bias in the activities of the FBI and in the Crossfire Hurricane investigation. I think that’s clearly not what he found, but first, let me establish this. In the report itself, the Inspector General found that the Crossfire Hurricane team’s receipt of the Steele election reporting in September 2016 played a central and essential role in the FBI’s and the department’s decision to seek the FISA order. Do you agree with that?
Rod Rosenstein: (02:31:18)
I’m aware of what was in the FISA application, and I understand that people who were more directly involved like Mr. McCabe have testified about that, so I didn’t know everything that they knew, but that’s my understanding.
Senator Crapo: (02:31:30)
All right. Thank you. Now, with regard to this question of whether there is bias, this is one of the main reasons we’re here in this hearing today as to what happened and why the problems that arose came with. The Inspector General, as we all know, found 17 significant violations of process and procedure that resulted in you stating here earlier today that had you known them, you would not have signed the FISA request.
Rod Rosenstein: (02:31:56)
Senator Crapo: (02:31:58)
In that context, he did indicate, as I read it, that he found bias but that he could not prove that the bias was a cause of the decisions that were made. Do you agree with that?
Rod Rosenstein: (02:32:15)
Yes, sir. I think that’s the way I would characterize it, that it’s not that he didn’t find bias, it’s that he didn’t find evidence that the bias affected the outcome.
Senator Crapo: (02:32:23)
In fact, the phrase that he used in which is now very common is that he could not find the documentary or testimonial evidence that the bias caused the decisions made by the team. Correct?
Rod Rosenstein: (02:32:37)
I don’t recall the exact words, but I accept that.
Senator Crapo: (02:32:40)
I asked the Inspector about that when he was here testifying before us about his report, and he basically confirmed that, and I concluded it with him saying, “How did you try to find out if it bled into the decision making, if the bias did?” He said, “I asked those who had the bias, and I asked those who were making the decisions, and they said, ‘No, they didn’t let bias cause their decision making.’ and because I could not find documentary or testimonial evidence otherwise, I concluded and I couldn’t prove that there was bias in the final decision making.”
Senator Crapo: (02:33:16)
That’s how I read it. At that point, I said to him that I found it inexplicable. Actually, I think he used that word. I found it mind-numbing I think is what I said to him, that you could not see the bias bleeding into the decision making, and he responded to me by saying… I said, “How could you not reach that conclusion,” basically. He said, “There is such a range of conduct here that it is inexplicable, and the answers we got were not satisfactory that we are left trying to understand how could all these errors have occurred over a nine-month period of time or so among three teams handpicked one of the highest profile, if not the highest profile case in the FBI going to the very top of the organization involving a presidential campaign.” I think he was saying he thought it was inexplicable. I said to him, “I understand that. I think it is explicable. I think it was bias.” My question to you is what do you think?
Rod Rosenstein: (02:34:21)
Yeah, I think it’s a very important issue, senator. I think the important thing to keep in mind, and again, I have the experience of three decades in law enforcement, our goal is for the Department of Justice be nonpartisan in its operations. Our people are not nonpartisan though. We have people with very strong political views on both sides. I have my own political views. Obviously, the Attorney Generals always have political views and our line do too.
Rod Rosenstein: (02:34:44)
The goal is to train them about the way they go about their work to exclude political partisan considerations from their decision making, so what was concerning about the information the Inspector General turned up was that it wasn’t that our employees had political views. It was that their political views appeared to be influencing their conduct of the investigation, at least based on what their messages suggested.
Rod Rosenstein: (02:35:07)
Now, the Inspector General completed his investigation, and he reached his conclusion, but my goal, senator, is, number one, is to avoid actual political influence, number two is to avoid the appearance of political influence, which is very difficult, so I encourage you to keep in mind, we don’t require our employees to have no views. We just encourage them to set their views aside when they’re doing their work.
Senator Crapo: (02:35:28)
I understand that, and I understand the difference between the appearance of political influence and the reality of it. My question goes to the fact that when you’ve got, as the Inspector General said, “When you have all of errors, 17 significant errors, one, including a criminal act of changing a document, occurring over a nine-month period of time among three teams handpicked on one of the most high-profile cases in the country, isn’t there a point at which you must say that there’s a real possibility that this appearance is real?”
Rod Rosenstein: (02:36:06)
Well, it’s an appearance that the work was not done properly, whether it was a result of bias or negligence or failed policies, I think that’s something that General Barr needs to address, and I believe he will.
Senator Crapo: (02:36:17)
Well, you indicated that the outcome of the Special Counsel’s investigation was that we found that Russians did commit crimes seeking to influence our election and that Americans did not conspire-
Rod Rosenstein: (02:36:31)
Senator Crapo: (02:36:31)
… with them. That’s correct.
Rod Rosenstein: (02:36:32)
Senator Crapo: (02:36:33)
Then I’ll just conclude with this, I’m going right back to your introductory comments, and that is, as you concluded your testimony, you indicated that the Inspector General concluded that so many basic and fundamental errors were made by three separate handpicked teams on one of FBI’s most sensitive investigations that FBI officials expected would be subjected to close scrutiny, raise significant questions regarding the FBI chain of command, management, and supervision of the FISA process. You still stand by that.
Rod Rosenstein: (02:37:10)
Yes, sir. I always emphasize to my subordinates that it’s very important for us to follow the rules because if we don’t follow the rules, people are going to question our motivations. It’s certainly understandable that you would be concerned about that. My hope is that the Attorney General will be able to put in place new policies, and if people committed misconduct or crimes that they’ll be held accountable for them.
Senator Crapo: (02:37:32)
I think there was way more than just significant questions about the FBI’s chain of command management. I think there’s significant questions about whether bias bled into this investigation.
Mr. Chairman: (02:37:44)
Thank you very much Senator Crapo. Senator Booker.
Senator Booker: (02:37:48)
Mr. Chairman, thank you very much. I’m finding myself repeating a theme from earlier in this last few weeks, which is I just don’t understand why we as a committee are focusing on things that further deepen the jangling discords of partisan posturing in America. I might be missing something, but to me, we’re in a pandemic like we haven’t seen since 1918, an economic crisis like we haven’t seen since the Great Depression, and uprisings all across America like we haven’t seen since 1968. Yet I’ve been down here for a month or so, the first hearing in this committee we held for judicial seat that’s not open until September, and now we’re doing something that is affirming discord in this country at a time that the hurting in America right now that we could actually answer that by having a committee hearing on the issues that speak to the heart of our country right now.
Senator Booker: (02:38:48)
I talk to people on both sides of the aisle, not just in my state, but on this committee, in this Congress about what we could be doing together to deal with the issues that are related to the savage murder of George Floyd. There’s good will, I tell you, that we could demonstrate right now. I know that the chairman is going to have some committee hearings, but I just come from a school of thought that justice delayed is justice denied, and our delay in meeting the urgency of this moment is problematic.
Senator Booker: (02:39:26)
I know the goodness on the other side of the aisle. Hell, I think I’m Senator Kennedy’s second favorite Cory in all the Senate. I’m just going to repeat for the record things that have been said. First, the justice department Inspector General has found unequivocally that the FBI’s investigation into the links between the Trump campaign and Russia had a legitimate basis, those are the words, and was not motivated by political bias. That is the Inspector General’s words. Second, Special Counsel Mueller appointed and overseen by Mr. Rosenstein-
Senator Cory Booker: (02:40:03)
… were appointed and overseen by Mr. Rosenstein identified “numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign” and found that the Trump campaign “expected it would benefit electorally from Russian interference.” I quote the president of United States, “Russia, if you are listening,” come on. And finally, in third, Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation resulted in a total of 199 counts against 37 people and entities with 7 guilty pleas and 2 convictions at trial. There is simply no question that this investigation was justified and there’s simply no question that foreign interference was a threat to our elections in 2006 and remains one today.
Senator Cory Booker: (02:40:57)
Are we having a hearing on how to stop the Russians from interfering in our elections, which are 150 plus days from now? No. Who are we having a hearing on urgent issues dealing with this pandemic? No. Are we having a hearing on the economic devastation happening in our country? No. Are we having a hearing on the broken criminal justice system that threatens the lives of black Americans every single day in this nation? No. We’re sitting here showing the American public that we argue with each other very well at a time that Rome is burning.
Senator Cory Booker: (02:41:40)
And so I’m shifting gears because I’m excited to have you here. You’re familiar with the crisis going on in this country. Did you watch the 8 minutes and 46 seconds of the murder of George Floyd? Did you watch that?
Rod Rosenstein: (02:41:54)
I’m not sure I watched the entire 8 minutes and 46 seconds, but I watched it, yes.
Senator Cory Booker: (02:41:58)
Do you know about the Obama administration’s task force, a 21st Century Task Force on Policing?
Rod Rosenstein: (02:42:05)
I’m familiar with it.
Senator Cory Booker: (02:42:06)
Do you know they had Black Lives Matter’s people on that task force?
Rod Rosenstein: (02:42:11)
I don’t think that I knew that.
Senator Cory Booker: (02:42:12)
Big city police chiefs.
Rod Rosenstein: (02:42:14)
Senator Cory Booker: (02:42:14)
So the question, I’m looking and my time is up right now, but the one question I have and I’m going to submit the rest of mine for the record is that in September, 2007, Attorney General… and those recommendations of that task force, bipartisan task force, police officers, Black Lives… incredible task force, have not been implemented. I wish we could go into that further, but Attorney General Sessions shut down a Justice Department program that enabled the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, called the COPS Program, shut it down that that office’s work to do work collaboratively, I’m not talking about consent decrees. That program had a part that worked collaboratively with police departments and issued public reports on how to improve police practices.
Senator Cory Booker: (02:43:01)
Do you think that ending that collaborative reform program made the streets of our nation safer or our police departments better?
Rod Rosenstein: (02:43:10)
Senator, I don’t mean to quibble with you. I don’t recall that we ended collaborative reform.
Senator Cory Booker: (02:43:17)
I didn’t say ended collaborative reform, I said specifically within the COPS program, there was an effort going on, specifically under the COPS program that was ended. Do you not remember that?
Rod Rosenstein: (02:43:35)
I’m happy to review it Senator, I don’t have a specific recollection [crosstalk 02:43:40].
Senator Cory Booker: (02:43:38)
I will submit my questions for the record. I’m grateful for having the six minutes that have been allocated to me. Thank you very much.
Lindsey Graham: (02:43:45)
Thank you very much. Before I want to make sure I understand your testimony here Mr. Rosenstein. In August, when you signed the scope memo of 2017, you did not know that in January the 4th, 2017, the FBI field office recommended dropping General Flynn from Crossfire Hurricane, is that correct?
Rod Rosenstein: (02:44:09)
Senator, I have no recollection of that, I would think I would remember it. If I had known it, I do not remember that.
Lindsey Graham: (02:44:15)
And the evidence has been recently discovered and turned over to the court in his case, FBI notes, you are not aware of those notes, right?
Rod Rosenstein: (02:44:24)
Lindsey Graham: (02:44:24)
Thank you. Senator Kennedy.
Senator Kennedy: (02:44:27)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. General, as I think you know, we’re here to talk about bias and alleged acts on that bias. It seems to me that it’s one thing to talk about bias as a concept or an intellectual proposition, but it’s quite another thing to see it in living color. I want to just read you a couple of emails that I think demonstrate the bias and living color and the promise to act on that bias.
Senator Kennedy: (02:45:21)
August 16, 2015, Peter Strzok, “Bernie Sanders is an idiot like Trump. Figure they cancel each other out.” February 12, 2016, Lisa Paige, “Trump has no dignity or class, he simply cannot be president.” March 3rd, 2016, Lisa Page, “God trump is a loathsome human.” March 3rd, 2016, Peter Strzok, “Oh my God, Trump’s an idiot.” March 3rd, 2016, Peter Strzok, “God Hillary should win 100 million and nothing.” March 3rd, 2016, Lisa Page, “Did you hear Trump made a comment about the size of his penis,” Only she didn’t use the word penis, “earlier? This man can not be president.” July 18, 2016, Lisa Page, “Donald Trump is an enormous douche.” August, 2016, Lisa Page, “Trump’s not ever going to become president, right? Right?” August, 2016, Peter Strzok, “No, no he won’t. We will stop it.”
Senator Kennedy: (02:46:55)
Now Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page were not junior G-men or G-women, they were senior officials at the FBI. And as I understand it, please, correct me General if I’m wrong, they were navel deep in Misfire Hurricane and the Mueller investigation. Navel deep, they were decision makers. And you made these emails public, which I appreciate, but what we’re talking about here is, is not a routine run of the mill FBI case, this was an investigation of the president of the United States of America and this was the investigation of a presidential campaign.
Senator Kennedy: (02:48:06)
And here’s what I’ve never understood, when these emails became public and you knew about them, when you learned about them, you did the right thing, you made them public. I presume you made them available to Mr. Mueller. Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page were removed from the Mueller investigation, nobody gets fired around here, it’s easier to divorce your spouse than to fire somebody. But why didn’t you or somebody else or some other senior official at Department of Justice or the Director of the FBI or somebody else senior at the FBI say, “Wait a minute, stop. Stop a second. We’re investigating a president and a presidential campaign. I’m going to ask some hard questions here. Maybe I shouldn’t have been trusting people that are telling me this stuff.”
Senator Kennedy: (02:49:26)
If you or some of your colleagues at the Trump administration had done that, you would have seen that the FBI had already said General Flynn didn’t do anything wrong and that the FBI agents who tried to entrap him at the White House had said, “Well, he’s not lying.” And y’all, I’m not just putting it on you, but y’all would have found that the Steele dossier was unadulterated BS. And you would have found that some people at the FBI had been lying, lying to you, lying on the warrant applications. And maybe he would have said, “Wow, does the Mueller investigation really need to be trying to put Carter Page and General Flynn… I mean, what’s going on here?” But nobody did that and that bothers me.
Rod Rosenstein: (02:50:41)
I appreciate your questions, Senator. First of all, I have the report open to the appropriate page. You are correct with regard to Inspector Horowitz’s conclusions. He did point out that employees are entitled to political views. I think it’s important to recognize I’m sure we have people with strong views on the other side, too. The question is, are you following the rules? And are you articulating those views in a way that will cast doubt upon the integrity of the process? And when that information came to our attention, Senator, I think we did the right thing. Inspector Horowitz brought it to my attention and the attention of Director Mueller, Director Mueller took appropriate action. The FBI director transferred Mr. Strzok, the investigation wasn’t concluded yet, so he wasn’t able to impose any discipline. I believe the woman involved left the department voluntarily.
Rod Rosenstein: (02:51:34)
With regard to the status of the investigation, Senator, obviously fortunately read the conclusion and were able to say that no Americans conspired with the Russians. My impression at the time was that there was proper predication for that investigation and Inspector General Horowitz agreed with that. There may be more information that comes to light and Mr. [Dora 02:51:59] may find that and then I think we ought to take that into consideration as well. But with regard to all those cases, Senator, all I can tell you is, and I think one more important point I’d like to make, which is why didn’t we just throw the whole thing out? It’s because there are a lot more people involved in this. It’s not just Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page, there are dozens, perhaps scores of federal agents and attorneys involved and I hope and believe most of them were not [crosstalk 02:52:26]-
Lindsey Graham: (02:52:25)
Mr. Rosenstein, I think he’s asked a very good question. Once you find out that the people who were in charge of Crossfire Hurricane also became the Mueller lead investigators and they were dripping with bias, why wasn’t there a time out do something like the Woods Procedures, slow down? Can we really trust the work product of these people? That wasn’t done, was it?
Rod Rosenstein: (02:52:47)
I believe it was.
Lindsey Graham: (02:52:49)
Well, will you agree to me that it was done very poorly? Because you didn’t find anything that Horowitz found. How did Horowitz find all this stuff and you didn’t?
Rod Rosenstein: (02:52:58)
Well Horowitz… that’s my internal affairs officers.
Lindsey Graham: (02:53:02)
Well, all I can say is that Senator Kennedy’s point is well taken. Anybody in their right mind when they found Strzok and Page were so over the top, were to slow down, look what Horowitz did find. And I just can’t believe that all this was laying there and nobody could find it if they really looked. I don’t believe you were a part of a conspiracy to defraud the FISA Court, I don’t believe you’re out to get the president, but his point is that this went on for two years and it was clear that somebody should stop and take a time out and that never happened. And when Horowitz looks at it in 2019, he found a ton of stuff that should unnerve all of us.
Rod Rosenstein: (02:53:44)
Keep in mind, Senator, and I think it’s a very valid question you asked, why didn’t I do something? And from my perspective, that is what I do. I refer allegations to an inspector general who works for me, reports to me and he does the investigation.
Lindsey Graham: (02:53:58)
I think the point is that this thing went on two years and in August, 2017, none of the people named in the memo had a tie to Russia at all. General Flynn wanted to be dropped out of the thing and the seventh floor kept him in it. Carter Page was no more a Russian agent than I am a Chinese astronaut. Papadopoulos had said many times when he didn’t know he was being taped, it’d be treason to work with the Russians. We just don’t understand how it started to begin with, to be honest with you. And I think you were very honest up front saying, if you knew then what you know now, maybe things would’ve been different. But that’s all this is about, it’s trying to find out how it went so long.
Senator Kennedy: (02:54:37)
You did a better job with my time than I have, but I got one other comment quickly.
Lindsey Graham: (02:54:42)
Senator Kennedy: (02:54:46)
Rod, this is what really bothers me. Man, a lot of this about this circus without a tent bothers me, but I don’t really believe the FBI is the premier law enforcement agency in all of human history and the American people trust it. And you don’t want an American, when an FBI agent knocks on your door, to have to go, “Wow, I wonder if he’s a Republican or Democrat.” But here you’ve got a guy like Flynn and I’ve never met the gentleman, but the FBI had already concluded that he didn’t do anything wrong, there was no collusion. And it appears that they were going to take one more shot, some people at the FBI were going to interview him at the White House, see if we can catch him in a lie.
Senator Kennedy: (02:55:36)
And the agents who interviewed him came back and said, “Well, I don’t think he’s lying.” And the next thing we know, the prosecutors working for Mr. Mueller are saying, “Here’s the deal, you’re going to plead guilty to lying to the FBI or we’re going to prosecute your kid and we’re going to break you in the process.” I don’t think that’s justice. I don’t care whether you’re a Trump supporter or a Clinton supporter or Biden supporter, man, that’s not justice.
Rod Rosenstein: (02:56:15)
If it went down that way, Senator, I would agree with you and I understand why you’ve reached that inference. All I can tell you is that I certainly was not under the impression that he hadn’t lied as I think I made quite clear. I was under the impression that General Flynn had willfully lied to the FBI and to the vice president. So this fact that you’ve put in there that the agents didn’t believe that he had lied, I don’t recall understanding that at the time, Senator, and I’ve read the filing and I’m sure that General Barr will give us a full readout at the appropriate time, the case is still pending. So we haven’t heard the whole story, but if there’s any evidence of misconduct there, Senator, I’m confident that General Barr will bring it to light. So I don’t think we should jump to that conclusion until we’ve heard from General Barr about that.
Senator Kennedy: (02:57:09)
Okay. Thank you, General.
Lindsey Graham: (02:57:10)
Thank you very much, Senator Blackburn.
Senator Blackburn: (02:57:12)
Thank you Mr. Chairman, and thank you for being here. Senator Booker asked, “Why were we here?” We’re here because trust has eroded in the FBI and Department of Justice and you see this carried out by the Obama FBI and DOJ. And people are just… they cannot believe this happened. And do you know, I have to tell you, Mr. Rosenstein, when you think about insurrection, generally you think about violence, you think about armed criminals, they’re taken to the streets, but are some plots that are there that are done, they’re quiet rebellions. And they use the cloak of law to shield them. And you’ve got where corrupt officials really exploited their powers to destroy careers. You’ve got partisan hacks that manipulated conspiracy theories to destroy careers, to destroy their political enemies and these unsubstantiated conspiracies.
Senator Blackburn: (02:58:26)
And this is really what gets us, this has wasted a lot of our time and a lot of money and it has destroyed the trust and the Mueller witch hunt, tried and failed, to get rid of a president. And then you had the impeachment and the Democrats tried that, that tried and fail. And the deal is, that the American people should be able to trust the FBI and DOJ to have one set of rules and one standard. And that, that will apply to everybody. And we know that that didn’t happen, there hasn’t been accountability and there seems to be a double standard, one for the in crowd and a different one for the out crowd. And let’s go back to Mr. McCabe, the IG caught him lying three times under oath. And you’ve said you did not think he was completely forthcoming, I think was your phrase you used, in his conversation with you. So if there’s a double standard in place, do you think that Andy McCabe should be criminally charged with lying?
Rod Rosenstein: (02:59:56)
Senator, I don’t express any opinion about that, I don’t have access to the evidence and so I’m really not in a position to comment on it. The evidence being whatever information was gathered through the investigation.
Senator Blackburn: (03:00:08)
Okay. So you have no opinion if he lied and we know he lied…
Rod Rosenstein: (03:00:14)
If he willfully lied and it was material and it satisfied the principles of federal prosecution, then yes, but I don’t have an opinion about whether it was true.
Senator Blackburn: (03:00:22)
Then yes, he should be charged, okay. All right. Michael Flynn was a target because he supported Donald Trump, correct?
Rod Rosenstein: (03:00:30)
I do not understand that to be the reason he was a target.
Senator Blackburn: (03:00:32)
Okay, then let’s look at a double standard here. You go back and you look at what happened 10 years ago in the Senate when DOJ prosecutors went after the late Senator Ted Stevens and they withheld Brady material, and that was vital and relevant and it is a tragedy that Senator Stevens was exonerated only after he passed. So let me ask you this, is history repeating itself today? That the prosecutors that went after Flynn and they withheld Brady evidence and they violated his constitutional rights, so should the charges be dropped against Michael Flynn?
Rod Rosenstein: (03:01:18)
Senator, I’m not going to comment on the pending case, but I think it’s important for you to know, I read the pleading that was filed, and I know people have jumped to the conclusion that there may have been wrongdoing by the prosecutors. I haven’t seen that allegation raised by the attorney general or by US Attorney Jensen.
Senator Blackburn: (03:01:35)
So you have no opinion if there should be consistency?
Rod Rosenstein: (03:01:39)
I believe there should be consistency, yes.
Senator Blackburn: (03:01:40)
You believe there should be consistency. So if you’re consistent, then the charges would be dropped. Correct?
Rod Rosenstein: (03:01:46)
I don’t know, it’s hard for me to compare the two cases.
Senator Blackburn: (03:01:50)
Hard for you to say, okay. You’ve got your daughter’s here with you today.
Rod Rosenstein: (03:01:55)
Senator Blackburn: (03:01:55)
And you’ve got one that wants to be an entrepreneur and is interested in-
Rod Rosenstein: (03:02:01)
I’d rather not give too many details about my daughter’s at a congressional hearing, but yes, I’m very proud of them.
Senator Blackburn: (03:02:05)
… in politics. Let’s just say, I know that you are proud of them, we’re all proud of our children. And I think many times as a mom and a grand mom to me, it is some of that role playing that does the best. So let’s say your daughter, who’s an entrepreneur, is wildly successful, rocks the political system, runs for office and wins. And then she finds out she’s been spied on. And then let’s say another daughter has followed in your footsteps and gone to DOJ and has become a career, a career DOJ employee, and is heartbroken when she finds out that some of the prosecutors and the agents are bending the rules and skirting around and using that to spy on a president. And she comes to you and says, “Dad, what should I do?” And the other daughter says, “Dad, what should I do?”
Senator Blackburn: (03:03:03)
Would you want there to be two tiers of justice or would you want there to be one Mr. Rosenstein? Would you want there to be consistency?
Rod Rosenstein: (03:03:08)
I would want there to be consistency.
Senator Blackburn: (03:03:11)
You would want there to be consistency. Exactly right. And that is why we’re doing these hearings. What was done to President Trump and to his transition team, I was the vice chairman of the transition team, to this day I don’t know if they spied on me. See this is outside of the rule of law and it is so disappointing to us and I’ve come here and I’ve listened to everybody’s questions, that you want to punt and kick the can and not give us an answer. Because if we don’t get this right and if we don’t straighten out what happened with Crossfire Hurricane and whatever else was in this mix, then my children, your precious daughters, my precious grandsons, are not going to have a government that they can believe in and trust to do the right thing. I yield my time.
Rod Rosenstein: (03:04:20)
Senator, if I could briefly respond, I do not mean in any way to punt. It’s simply that I’m not carrying the ball at the moment. So I’m not in position to know what the evidence is beyond what I’m seeing in the media. And I’m relying on the people who are in authority to take the appropriate action. I do not believe that Mr. Mueller was trying to get rid of the president. And as I told you, I’ve I was working with a team of Trump appointees and I don’t think any of those people believe now that I was trying to get rid of the president. That’s just not what we were about. With regard to General Flynn, I think that case will be resolved and if there are allegations of wrongdoing, they’ll be remedied. But I do think, Senator, it’s not a matter of punting, it’s simply a matter of reserving judgment given that I don’t have access to the evidence at this time.
Lindsey Graham: (03:05:04)
Well, I just want to say, as we conclude here, that I’ve always found you to be an honest man and I don’t think you were a part of any conspiracy to get the president, but I do believe that General Flynn went through hell, that a lot of things were withheld from the court that mattered. I think Carter Page was abused and I can’t believe the system did not pick it up and the fact that it didn’t is why we’re here, to make sure it never happens again, but there’s a statement out I want you to respond to and we’ll wrap up here and this comes from Mr. McCabe.
Lindsey Graham: (03:05:38)
“Mr. Rosenstein’s claim to have been misled by me or anyone from the FBI regarding our concerns about President Trump and the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russia are completely false. Mr. Rosenstein approved of and suggested ways to enhance our investigation of the president. Further, I personally brief Mr. Rosenstein on Jim Comey’s memos, describing his interactions with the president mere days after Mr. Rosenstein wrote the memo firing Jim Comey. Mr. Rosenstein’s testimony is completely at odds with the factual record, looks to be yet another sad attempt by the president and his men to rewrite the history of their actions in 2017. They have found in Mr. Rosenstein, then and now, a willing accessory in that effort.”
Lindsey Graham: (03:06:31)
Would you like to respond?
Rod Rosenstein: (03:06:32)
Yes. Thank you, Senator. I think one thing you need to appreciate, Senator, is that I had a very strong team working with me at the Department of Justice. I had some of the finest lawyers that I’ve ever met working with me at the Department of Justice. It was a team including Trump appointees, it included career people, I’m sure there were Republicans and Democrats and that’s why I’m confident, Senator, in what I did because I spoke with my team, not Mr. McCabe, I didn’t rely on Mr. McCabe, I spoke with my team about the actions that I was taking to make sure that they were appropriate. I did not say that Mr. McCabe misled me. Those were not my words, I think he’s responding to somebody’s question.
Rod Rosenstein: (03:07:10)
What I said was, he did not reveal the Comey memos to me for a week and that is true. And he revealed them to me only a couple of hours before they showed up in the New York Times. And he did not reveal to me that he was having internal deliberations with his team about whether to target very high profile people for investigation. And his position is he didn’t have to do that until after he had signed off on it. And that may be true under the rules as they were written at the time. But my view, Senator, was that’s the kind of thing that I needed to know. And so I haven’t accused him of making misstatements to me, I’ve simply said that he wasn’t fully forthcoming. And I think that’s accurate and I’m confident, Senator, that the folks who work with me will back me up on that.
Rod Rosenstein: (03:07:56)
I don’t wish Mr. McCabe any ill will, he’s suing over his termination, the court will make an appropriate determination about that. But the bottom line is, Senator, for whatever reason, he did not feel comfortable disclosing that information to me for a week. And I think I should have known that earlier and I think I had a right to know it and I think I had a right to know the deliberations in inside the FBI. Because Mr. McCabe knew I had just come into this job, I hadn’t been around for nine months, I didn’t know what they were investigating except for what he represented to me. And that was my only source of information. I didn’t have the underlying evidence. I didn’t talk to the witnesses. So I respectfully disagree.
Lindsey Graham: (03:08:31)
You were relying on what you were told by the McCabe team basically, right?
Rod Rosenstein: (03:08:34)
I was relying upon the information that came up from the FBI and I have not made any unfair allegations against Mr. McCabe, Senator.
Lindsey Graham: (03:08:41)
Yeah. Well, all I can say as we wrap up here that Mr. McCabe will have the same opportunity you have to sit in that chair or hopefully in a smaller committee room and tell us what happened. And the reason that I think he’s an appropriate witness is I find it hard to believe, maybe it’s possible, that the sub-source, the Russian sub-source, that was interviewed in January and on two different occasions after January of 2017, told FBI investigators, counter intelligence analysts at the dossier, which is the primary document to get a warrant against Carter Page, was not reliable, it was bar talk, it was hearsay, it was never meant to be used the way it was being used. I find it hard to believe that when the case fell apart against Carter Page, in terms of a warrant application, it didn’t work it’s way up at the top.
Lindsey Graham: (03:09:28)
Maybe it’s just two people at the bottom that withheld exculpatory information, they never shared it with anybody. But that’s what we’re trying to find out is how could you renew a warrant application in April and June of 2017 when the sub-source tells you in January of 2017, the document you need to get the warrant’s a bunch of garbage. I want to know how you continue to renew those two warrants, who knew what, when and where. You say you didn’t know, I believe you, but somebody had to know. And Mr. McCabe was the guy most directly in charge, so I look forward to talking with him. We’ll hold the record open and-
Speaker 1: (03:10:04)
Lindsey Graham: (03:10:04)
Speaker 1: (03:10:06)
I just want to be clear about one thing have there been any additional facts today that were in the IG’s reports?
Lindsey Graham: (03:10:20)
Yeah. I think what I learned is that the August memo, his team consulted with the Mueller team, but the information in the August memo came from the Mueller people, I didn’t know that.
Speaker 1: (03:10:32)
Mr. Rosenstein, does that change your conclusion?
Rod Rosenstein: (03:10:35)
Let me just clarify, Senator. When Mr. Mueller came on board, he inherited the team that was doing the investigation. So it’s true that they’re the Mueller people, but they’re people that he inherited from the previous [crosstalk 03:10:46]-
Lindsey Graham: (03:10:47)
Like Strzok and Page, right?
Rod Rosenstein: (03:10:49)
Lindsey Graham: (03:10:49)
And thank you. Yeah. Yeah. I didn’t know all that, but anyway, a lot more to find out. Thank you very much. And we’ll hold the record open for questions and to be continued. Thank you.
Rod Rosenstein: (03:10:58)
Thank you, Senator.