Republicans blast FBI Russia probe as Rosenstein defends Mueller

Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein

Enlarge Image Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein Getty Images Jim Lo Scalzo

Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to discuss the FBI's "Crossfire Hurricane" investigation, in Washington on June 3, 2020.

Graham has also questioned whether Mueller should have been appointed at all.

In May 2017, Rosenstein signed a "scope memo" authorizing the extent to which Mueller was allowed to probe "coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump".

When questioned by committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Wednesday, Rosenstein testified he would not have signed off on FISA warrants against Carter Page had he known about the misconduct surrounding those warrants.

While there is still no evidence available to prove the Obama administration acted illegally with regards to Michael Flynn or monitoring the Trump campaign for its possible involvement with Russia's actions in 2016, Cruz continued to make Watergate comparisons while lashing out at James Comey, Susan Rice, and other Obama officials.

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"That lawyer was not on my staff, but I was not aware of it", Rosenstein said.

Appointing the special counsel "was the best way to complete the investigation appropriately and promote public confidence in its conclusions", Rosenstein said.

He also said "I don't believe so" when asked whether he knew the 2016 campaign for Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee paid for the dossier. "But investigative reviews published by the Inspector General [Michael Horowitz] in December 2019 and March 2020 revealed that the FBI was not following the written protocols, and that "significant errors" appeared in applications filed in connection with the Crossfire Hurricane investigation", Rosenstein said.

The watchdog said the Federal Bureau of Investigation relied in part for its applications on a dossier of information compiled by a former British spy whose research was funded by Democrats and the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Asked by Graham if he would have signed the warrant application knowing what he knows now, Rosenstein replied, "No, I would not".

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Though Rosenstein was a Trump appointee, he has often been regarded with suspicion by many supporters of the president, and Trump himself, for his role in the Russian Federation investigation. Rosenstein said he was unaware of the problems when he signed off on the final warrant application and that "every application that I approved appeared to be justified based on the facts it alleged", an answer that did not satisfy Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley, who blasted the former official for moving ahead on the warrants. Rosenstein's fate was most dramatically in limbo in September 2018 after it was revealed that he had floated the idea of wearing a wire inside the White House to record conversations with Trump.

The inspector general said senior Justice Department officials were given incomplete information by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Rosenstein denied that on Wednesday. Mueller's final report, released a year ago, detailed significant contacts between Russian Federation and the Trump campaign. It examined about a dozen episodes for potential obstruction of justice by Trump, but did not reach a conclusion as to whether he broke the law, in part because Justice Department policy bars the indictment of sitting presidents.

"No, I would not", Rosenstein said.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) charged that Rosenstein and Mueller misled him and others by withholding information showing the Federal Bureau of Investigation didn't have a legitimate basis to interview retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn in early 2017.

Trump and his allies have sought to frame the entire Russian Federation investigation as a hoax and a witch hunt against the president, seizing on some aspects of Crossfire Hurricane, the code name for the FBI's counterintelligence investigation into Russia's election meddling and possible ties to the Trump campaign. Flynn pleaded guilty to one count of lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, but the Department of Justice last month told a judge to dismiss the case because the interview wasn't conducted as part of a legitimate inquiry.

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