As the nationwide riots eclipse the COVID-19 crisis, the FBI’s 2016 counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign which morphed into Robert Mueller’s 22-month long odyssey and cast a shadow of illegitimacy over the new administration, seems like ancient history. Liberals try hard to portray Republicans as conspiracy theorists for seeking justice in such an old and “settled” case and want us to move on.
The truth is the matter is anything but settled. Though it came to us in bits and pieces, too much information has already been revealed to dismiss it.
We look to U.S. Attorney John Durham’s intensive (criminal) investigation into the origins of the fraudulent Russia collusion probe against candidate and then President Trump to provide us with a truthful account of what actually took place during this time. However, as we await Mr. Durham’s conclusions, the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, in addition to providing some political theatre and a diversion from the ugliness of the riots, will serve to refresh our collective memory and force those involved to answer some uncomfortable questions under oath.
The most notable takeaway from former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s testimony was his claimed lack of knowledge of many key facts. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, quipped that Rosenstein sounded like Sgt. Schultz in ‘Hogan’s Heroes’: ‘I See Nothing, I Hear Nothing’.
That said, Rosenstein’s testimony still furnished some valuable information.
Here is a list of several material facts Rosenstein told lawmakers he had not been aware of at the time:
1. The FBI was about to close the counterintelligence into Gen. Michael Flynn, the incoming National Security Advisor, on January 4, 2017. Clearly, he was not made privy to the exculpatory documents which were unsealed in late April 2020 either.
2. The FBI had learned from dossier author Christopher Steele’s primary sub-source in a January interview that the stories were mostly untrue. This information was contained in the December 2019 IG report. The FBI held two more interviews with the sub-source in March and in May 2017. Nor was he told that FBI agents had spoken to former colleagues of Steele who “cast doubt on his credibility.”
3. The Clinton campaign and the DNC had commissioned and paid for the dossier. Marc Elias, a partner at the Perkins, Coie law firm in Washington, served as general counsel for both the Clinton campaign and the DNC. In April 2016, Elias hired Fusion GPS’ Glenn Simpson on their behalf and laundered campaign and DNC funds through his law firm to pay Simpson.
4. The exculpatory statements made by low-level Trump campaign advisors George Papadopoulos and Carter Page, who were both unaware they were being recorded.
5. He did not know that then-FBI Director James Comey wrote memos after each meeting or phone call he had with President Trump. According to The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel:
In February 2017 the team decided not to inform Justice Department leaders about the memos, since Mr. Sessions was likely to recuse himself while his then-deputy, Dana Boente, was operating in acting capacity.
They had no such excuse for not telling Mr. Rosenstein about the memos immediately on his arrival as deputy. The memos were explosive, and the basis for the FBI’s suspicions about the president. Yet Mr. Rosenstein testified that Mr. McCabe didn’t tell him about the documents until a week after Mr. Comey was fired in May, a “couple of hours before they showed up in the New York Times.”
It’s important to note that President Trump nominated Rosenstein for the Deputy Attorney General position on February 1, 2017. He was confirmed by the Senate on April 25, 2017, and sworn in the next day. Prior to Rosenstein’s appointment, he served as a U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland.
If Rosenstein was telling the truth on Wednesday, that he had not been briefed on any of the above information, then he made some pivotal decisions with incomplete knowledge of the facts.
He signed the final FISA warrant renewal in June 2017.
…"was not candid … or forthcoming." Notably, we now know that the Flynn investigation found no criminal acts by December 2016 and now Rosenstein said he would have ended the investigation of Page which was the focus of the early justifications of the Russian investigation.
— Jonathan Turley (@JonathanTurley) June 3, 2020
He also appointed a Special Counsel to investigate the Trump team’s collusion with the Russians when there was still no evidence. FBI lawyer Lisa Page testified that the FBI had not found any evidence of collusion at the time of Mueller’s appointment.
Sen. Lindsey Graham asked Rosenstein if he agreed that by August 2017 when Rosenstein signed the third “scope” memo, there was “still no evidence of Trump-Russia collusion.” He said he agreed. So, why did he sign the expanded scope memo? A less redacted copy of this document was released last month which showed that Rosenstein directed Mueller to investigate Carter Page, Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos, and Michael Flynn. The information for the fifth named individual, believed to be President Trump, was completely redacted.
Why didn’t Rosenstein ask more questions? Strassel points out that Rosenstein himself had written the memo, at President Trump’s request, which outlined the reasons why Comey should be fired. She wrote: “Mr. Rosenstein also knew that Mr. McCabe had withheld the memos until their leak. Why would he trust anything that had come up to that point?”
Is Rosenstein’s plea of ignorance sufficient to escape responsibility for all of his misguided decisions?
I think not.
For all of Rosenstein’s shortcomings, he’s not a stupid man. And two FBI 302s, the first from an April 28, 2017 briefing (two days into Rosenstein’s service as DAG), and a May 10, 2017 briefing (the day after Comey was fired) state clearly that the FBI agents who briefed Rosenstein told him that President Trump was not a suspect.
I posted about these 302s last week. These documents were declassified in February 2020 and Dan Bongino had reported on them in his podcast at the time and I had posted on it.
(Note: After hearing that Rosenstein would be the first witness to testify, I dug up my old post and wrote about it. Dan Bongino highlighted my post on his podcast the next day.)
Unfortunately, Rosenstein was not questioned about these briefings during his testimony on Wednesday.
He needs to be asked under oath why, knowing that President Trump was not suspected of wrongdoing, he still appointed a Special Counsel.
I am reprinting a major portion of the post below.
Dan Bongino: The Stunning Reason Why Rod Rosenstein Will Be the First Witness Before Senate Committee
…But it was in February, while watching Dan Bongino’s podcast, that I learned something truly stunning. Rosenstein had met with FBI agents on April 28, 2017, and then again on May 23, 2017. The FBI 302s (summary written by an FBI agent following an interview) from those briefings had just been declassified and they revealed a bombshell.
The FBI told Rosenstein that President Trump was NOT a suspect.
Bongino began with a hat tip to the well-known (but anonymous) lawyer who posts on Twitter as Techno Fog for this “tactical nuke.”
It’s been clear for a long time that the FBI and Robert Mueller knew early on that President Trump had done nothing wrong.
For example, we know that after the FBI’s January 2017 interview with dossier author Christopher Steele’s primary sub-source, they had a pretty good idea it was all a lie. The FBI interviewed the sub-source two additional times, in March and in May 2017, and by then, they were sure of it.
We also learned from the testimony of former FBI lawyer, Lisa Page, that in May 2017, when the FBI turned their counterintelligence investigation over to Robert Mueller, they still had no evidence that Trump had colluded with the Russians to win the election. The FBI had been investigating Trump for ten months at that point.
Until now, we’ve never seen any of those involved actually admit it.
In the following excerpts from an FBI 302 report, it is made clear three times that the FBI did not believe President Trump was a suspect. (Source of information: The Dan Bongino Show, Episode 1191, February 27, 2020)
1. FBI agents confirmed to [acting Attorney General Rod] Rosenstein on May 10, 2017 that the President was not a suspect.
2. This was also Rosenstein’s impression from his initial April 28 briefing he received from then Director Comey.
3. Rosenstein elaborated that based on his May 10 briefing, “there appeared to be no evidence the President was involved personally.”
FD-302 (excerpt): FBI Interview of Rod Rosenstein: May 23, 2017 (emphasis mine)
Events of May 10, 2017
Rosenstein first contacted Robert Mueller on May 10 at 7:34 am, but “of course” he was thinking about the issue of appointing a special counsel before that time.
Then, at 11:30 am, Rosenstein attended a previously scheduled meeting with the prosecutors assigned to the FBI’s Russia investigation. This was the first regularly scheduled meeting on the matter. During this first meeting, and in light of all the controversy surrounding the investigation, Rosenstein declared, “In my acting capacity as the Attorney General, leave no stone unturned” or words to that effect. However, those assigned to the case are career prosecutors, so in his personal opinion, telling them to do so was unnecessary because he knew they would do the right thing.
During his May 10 briefing, the team confirmed for Rosenstein that the President was not a suspect. This was also Rosenstein’s impression from his initial April 28 briefing he received from then Director Comey. Carl Ghattas may have attended this briefing, as well as several prosecutors.
Rosenstein elaborated that based on his May 10 briefing, “there appeared to be no evidence the President was involved personally.”Rosenstein inquired whether they needed additional resources, and was informed there was no such need.
Any reasonable person would assume that would have been the end of the Trump/Russia collusion story. But it wasn’t.
So why did Rosenstein appoint a special counsel to investigate President Trump, a man he knew was innocent?
Do you understand the tactical nuke this is? Rosenstein knows, he’s been briefed by the FBI as early as April, that this case is total garbage and that President Trump is not a suspect in this thing, and they refuse to clear him. Why?
Because the Mueller probe has one purpose…To nail Donald Trump.
On May 10, Mueller is appointed to investigate Trump for a scandal that doesn’t exist.
It was always an effort to accumulate enough political damage on Donald Trump to hopefully impeach him, to get him out of office before this thing resulted in some denouement at the end.
Now you have it nailed down. Rosenstein knew what Mueller was going to do. That’s why he appointed Andy Weissmann. Andy Weissmann having a reputation for, at best, shady legal tactics. They appointed him knowing he’d keep this case open and knowing Trump wasn’t a suspect the entire time.
He ends the segment asking, “What else do you need to hear?”
I believe this is the single most extraordinary revelation we’ve heard in the last three years.
This is why the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), chose to call Rosenstein to testify first. Rosenstein knew President Trump was not a suspect, but he still went ahead and appointed a Special Counsel to investigate him. He needs to explain why he did that, under oath.