The 10 most important questions for Rod Rosenstein
From an alleged plot to remove the president from office to Robert Mueller's appointment, the former deputy attorney general is going to face some intense interrogation Wednesday by senators.
The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook
Two years ago, then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein chafed when asked whether congressional Republicans might have legitimate reason to suspect the factual underpinnings of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants that targeted Trump campaign adviser Carter Page in the Russia probe.
Seeming a bit perturbed, Rosenstein launched into a mini-lecture on how much care and work went into FISA applications at the FBI and Justice Department.
"There's a lot of talk about FISA applications. Many people I've seen talk about it seem not to recognize that a FISA application is actually a warrant, just like a search warrant. In order to get a FISA warrant, you need an affidavit signed by a career law enforcement officer who swears the information is true ... And if it is wrong, that person is going to face consequences," Rosenstein asserted.
"If we're going to accuse someone of wrongdoing, we have to have admissible evidence, credible witnesses, we have to prove our case in court. We have to affix our signature to the charging document," he added.
Rosenstein did affix his signature to the fourth and last FISA warrant against Page in 2017. And now in 2020, newly declassified evidence shows the FBI did not have the verified evidence or a credible witness in the form of Christopher Steele and his dossier to support the claims submitted to the FISA court as verified.
In fact, DOJ has withdrawn the very FISA application Rosenstein approved and signed after the department's internal watchdog found it included inaccurate, undocumented, and falsified evidence.
On Wednesday, when he appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Rosenstein is likely to strike a humbler tone in the face of overwhelming evidence that the FBI-executed FISAs have been chronically flawed, including in the Russia case he supervised.
"Even the best law enforcement officers make mistakes, and some engage in willful misconduct," Rosenstein said in a statement issued ahead of his appearance. “Independent law enforcement investigations, judicial review and congressional oversight are important checks on the discretion of agents and prosecutors."
Republicans led by Chairman Lindsey Graham of South Carolina are likely to interrogate Rosenstein extensively as they try to determine whether the glaring FISA failures and the FBI's representations in the Russia probe were a case of misplaced trust or a deeper plot by unelected bureaucrats to unseat and/or thwart President Trump.
Here are the 10 most important questions those senators are likely to set out to answer:
- Did Rosenstein read the FISA warrant renewal he signed in summer 2017 against Page, review any evidence supporting it, or ask the FBI any questions about the case before affixing his signature?
- Does the former No. 2 DOJ official now believe the FISA was so flawed that it should never have been submitted to the court? Does he regret signing it?
- Given what he now knows about flaws with the Steele dossier and FBI probe, would Rosenstein have appointed Robert Mueller as the Russia Special Counsel if given a do-over?
- Did Rosenstein engage in a conversation with FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe in 2017 about wearing a wire on President Trump as part of a plot to remove the 45th president from office under the 25th Amendment?
- Who drafted and provided the supporting materials that Rosenstein used to create the scope of investigation memos that guided Mueller's probe?
- Does Rosenstein have any concerns about the conduct of fired FBI Director James Comey and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe as he looks back on their tenure and in light of the new evidence that has surfaced?
- When did Rosenstein learn that the CIA had identified Page as one of its assets — ruling out he was a Russian spy — and that information in Steele's dossier used in the FISA warrant had been debunked or linked to Russian disinformation?
- Does Rosenstein believe the FISA court was intentionally misled, or can the glaring missteps be explained by bureaucratic bungling?
- What culpability does Rosenstein assign to himself for the failures in the Russia case he supervised, and what other people does he blame?
- Does the former deputy attorney general believe anyone in the Russia case should face criminal charges?
You can watch Rosenstein's 2018 statement here.