Note: In light of Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein’s upcoming House Judiciary testimony on December 13, 2017, I thought it worthwhile to re-visit a post from August 2017 regarding an interview Rosenstein gave to Chris Wallace.
I hope you find his interview as interesting as I did.
The FBI recently created a new counter-intelligence unit to specifically target leakers. As noted by Attorney General Jeff Sessions on August 4, 2017:
I directed my Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray to oversee all classified leak investigations and actively monitor the progress of each and every case.
I directed the National Security Division and U.S. Attorneys to prioritize cases involving unauthorized disclosures. The Department will not hesitate to bring lawful and appropriate criminal charges against those who abuse the nation’s trust.
We tripled the number of active leak investigations. The FBI has increased resources devoted to leak cases and created a new counterintelligence unit to manage these cases.
Shortly after Sessions made his announcement, Rosenstein gave an interview to Chris Wallace on August 6, 2017. The interview contained some very interesting comments on the DOJ/FBI investigations into leaking.
Equally interesting were comments made regarding the Mueller Investigation.
Recall that AG Sessions recused himself from the Russian Investigation. As a result, Deputy AG Rosenstein is the individual who appointed Mueller as Special Counsel.
Rosenstein is effectively Mueller’s boss.
The full video is below:
You can find the Rosenstein transcript here.
Throughout the video, Rosenstein was calm and very composed. He answered each question carefully and gave only information he wanted to.
The entire interview centered almost exclusively on Leaks and Mueller’s Special Counsel Investigation – with a quick touch on illegal immigration crackdowns at the end.
It felt more like a public statement than an interview.
Watch at 11:29 of the video. You can see Rosenstein turning through the pages of a notebook. Different sections for different topics…
I came away from the interview feeling encouraged.
First, on leaking:
ROSENSTEIN: Criminal prosecution isn’t the only way to prevent leaks, but it’s an important part of the solution.
We’ve created a new unit within the FBI to focus on those leaks, and we’re going to devote whatever resources are necessary to get them under control.
WALLACE: Some of the people who engaged in leaks, I don’t have to tell you, are not the so-called members of the deep state faceless bureaucrats inside intelligence agencies. They are White House officials. They are members of Congress. If you find any of them have committed these leaks, have disclosed classified information, will you prosecute?
ROSENSTEIN: Chris, what we need to look at in every leak referral we get, we look at the fact and circumstances – what was the potential harm caused by the leak, what were the circumstances? That’s more important to us than who it is, who is the leaker. So, if we identify somebody, no matter what their position is, if they violated the law, in that case it warrants prosecution, we’ll prosecute them.
WALLACE: Including White House officials and members of Congress?
ROSENSTEIN: Including anybody who breaks the law.
WALLACE: But the head of the reporters committee for the freedom of the press says when the — what the attorney general is suggesting is a dangerous threat to the freedom of the American people to know and understand what their leaders are doing and why.
ROSENSTEIN: I think that’s an overreaction, Chris. The attorney general has been very clear that we’re after the leakers, not the journalist. We’re after the people who are committing crime. And so, we’re going to devote the resources we need to identify who is responsible for those leaks and who has violated the law and hold them accountable.
Note that Rosenstein draws a distinction between types of leaks:
What was the potential harm caused by the leak, what were the circumstances? That’s more important to us than who it is, who is the leaker.
Note that Rosenstein does NOT draw a distinction between who is doing the leaking:
If we identify somebody, no matter what their position is, if they violated the law, in that case it warrants prosecution, we’ll prosecute them.
Rosenstein is stating that not all leaks are matters of National Security. Some are essentially harmless. Some are unethical, disloyal and are grounds for termination – but not worthy of criminal charges.
Still other leaks are violations of National Security and warrant criminal charges. These leaks will be prosecuted. No matter the position of the person doing the leaking.
Sessions, Rosenstein and Coates have publicly addressed the issue of leaking. President Trump’s new Chief of Staff, General Kelly, is reported to have privately done the same with White House staff. Secretary of Defense James Mattis did so as well, although less directly.
Everyone has been placed on official notice. There will almost certainly be charges. And jail time for some.
On to the matter of the Mueller Investigation:
WALLACE: We learned this week that special counsel Robert Mueller is taking his case to a grand jury. I know you can’t and won’t talk about the details of that case, but as a general proposition, does the fact that a prosecutor takes a case to a grand jury, what does that say about the likelihood of indictments?
ROSENSTEIN: Chris, you are right that I’m not going to comment on the case. I’m not going to comment about whether Director Mueller has or hasn’t opened a grand jury. You know, we read a lot about criminal investigations in the media and some of those stories are false.
We just don’t comment on investigations. That’s important for a number of reasons. First of all, we don’t want to disparage anybody who may be a subject of an investigation. Number two, we don’t want to interfere with the investigation.
Keep in mind that a Grand Jury investigation involves many who testify only as witnesses – they are not personally under investigation. They deserve to be protected. Above all, it is an investigative tool.
This is evidenced by the next exchange:
WALLACE: What does it say when a prosecutor takes a case, in general, to a grand jury about the likelihood of indictments?
ROSENSTEIN: In general, Chris, it doesn’t say anything about the likelihood of indictments because we conduct investigations and we make a determination that at some point in the course of the investigation about whether charges are appropriate.
WALLACE: And what’s the advantage in terms of an investigation into taking a case to a grand jury?
ROSENSTEIN: Many of our investigations, Chris, involve the use of a grand jury. It’s an appropriate way to gather documents, sometimes to bring witnesses in, to make sure that you get their full testimony. It’s just a tool that we use like any other tool in the course of our investigations.
A Grand Jury does not dictate indictments.
Now for the interesting bit:
WALLACE: There are reports that Mueller has expanded his investigation to go into the president’s finances.
When you appointed Mueller, and you were the one who did, you had to sign an order authorizing the appointment of a special counsel, and you said that he was authorized to investigate any coordination with Russia and — I want to put these words on the screen — any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.
My question is, does that mean that there are no red lines that Mueller or any special counsel can investigate under the terms of your order, anything he finds?
ROSENSTEIN: Chris, the special counsel is subject to the rules and regulations of the Department of Justice, and we don’t engage in fishing expeditions. Now, that order that you read, that doesn’t detail specifically who may be the subject of the investigation because we don’t reveal that publicly.
But Bob Mueller understands, and I understand, the specific scope of the investigation and so, it’s not a fishing expedition.
I found Rosenstein’s choice of words to be of great interest:
That order doesn’t detail specifically who may be the subject of the investigation
Bob Mueller understands, and I understand, the specific scope of the investigation
Although somewhat cryptic, Rosenstein’s comments directly imply there are greater limits placed on the actual scope of the investigation than we have been led to believe.
On to limitations over Mueller’s investigative powers:
WALLACE: In the course of his investigation of the issues that he is looking at, if he finds evidence of a crime, can he look at that?
ROSENSTEIN: Well, Chris, if he finds evidence of a crime that’s within the scope of what Director Mueller and I have agreed is the appropriate scope of the investigation, then he can. If it’s something that’s outside that scope, he needs to come to the acting attorney general, at this time, me, for a permission to expand his investigation. But we don’t talk about that publicly.
And so, the speculation you’ve seen in the news media, that’s not anything that I’ve said. It’s not anything Director Mueller said. We don’t know who’s saying it or how credible those sources are.
WALLACE: To expand, he would need to get approval from you to expand the investigation?
ROSENSTEIN: That’s correct.
Despite all the hyperbole and speculation in the press, Mueller cannot expand the scope of his investigation without permission from Rosenstein. Granted, we are not privy to the specifics of the limitations.
But we now know they exist.
Mueller does not have an unfettered arena in which to operate. Deputy AG Rosenstein holds the leash – more firmly than many believe.
If the investigation is expanded, we may have no idea it has happened.
An important point here. While the leaks have been many, most have been inaccurate. Nothing of true import relative to the investigation or President Trump has actually been leaked.
Rosenstein says so himself multiple times during the interview:
You know, we read a lot about criminal investigations in the media and some of those stories are false.
The speculation you’ve seen in the news media, that’s not anything that I’ve said. It’s not anything Director Mueller said.
The leaking is real. The truths contained in the leaking less so.
anybody who breaks the law…