Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein & FBI Director Chris Wray testified before the House Judiciary Committee today. It proved interesting. Very interesting. And informative.
Note: For an elaboration on the Gaetz/Rosenstein exchange see:
At the start, Representatives Sheila Jackson Lee and Jerrold Nadler repeatedly questioned the validity of the hearing. Following the break, Points of Order were loudly raised (particularly by Ted Lieu) as Strzok testimony was raised in questioning by Rep. Ratcliffe.
Democrats appeared unusually nervous and remained contentious throughout the hearing. Almost as if they were worried over what Rosenstein might have to say…
Rosenstein delivered an intriguing opening statement which can be found here.
FBI Director Wray’s statement, which proved less interesting, can be found here.
I’m awaiting a transcript as there appeared to be many subtleties and nuances throughout the hearing.
There are many opinions regarding Rosenstein. I have gone back and forth myself.
I remind myself of one very important point. Rosenstein was appointed by President Trump. Rosenstein can be fired by President Trump.
Rosenstein has not been fired.
One other item of note. Rosenstein has been charged with leading the team investigating leaks. He appears to have been effective. See here.
@drawandstrike has a good thread on this as well:
Rosenstein has been charged with leading the effort to CATCH THE LEAKERS and stop the leaks so these investigations that are ongoing will no longer be compromised by leakers INSIDE THE CONGRESS spreading false information to the public.
— STEALTH JEFF (@drawandstrike) June 28, 2018
A thread of highlights from Rosenstein’s testimony was provided by @tracybeanz:
At least a half a dozen times, RR has made mention that we shouldn’t believe the press reports about investigative matters– important
— Tracybeanz (@tracybeanz) June 28, 2018
We shouldn’t believe the press reports about investigative matters…
Here are five video clips containing some particular highlights. They involve questioning by five Republican Representatives:
- Ron DeSantis
- Matt Gaetz
- Trey Gowdy
- Jim Jordan
- John Ratcliffe
I encourage you to listen to these clips with a level of dispassion. Rosenstein is under oath. I will note that again. Rosenstein is under oath.
Focus on the words. Much appears to be given away if one is truly paying attention. More will be uncovered when the transcript is released.
I am not trying to highlight some of the more press-friendly, emotional exchanges (although some are included). I am trying to highlight some of the more subtle disclosures.
DeSantis asks Rosenstein how Inspector General Horowitz found the Strzok texts when DOJ did not.
DeSantis notes that IG Horowitz found Strzok’s bias DID affect the Huma-Weiner Email Investigation.
DeSantis questions some potential conflicts of interest.
Then an interesting exchange occurred.
DeSantis: What did the DOJ or FBI do in terms of collecting information – spying or surveillance – on the Trump Campaign vis a vis Stefan Halper, or anybody else working on behalf of the Agencies.
Rosenstein: I’m not permitted to discuss any classified information in an open setting, but I can assure you we are working with oversight committees and we’re producing all relevant evidence to answer those questions.”
DeSantis: Did the Obama Administration, anybody in the Administration, direct anybody – Halper or anyone else – to make contact with anyone associated with the Trump Campaign.
Rosenstein: I understand your interest but I’m not permitted to discuss classified information.
Rosenstein appears to be confirming an Active Investigation into Stefan Halper (or other FBI “spies”) and the Obama Administration.
If you watch nothing else, watch this entire segment. Practically every portion of the exchange is important.
Gaetz: Did any investigative activity occur regarding the Trump Campaign and Russia occur before July 31, 2016 [the start of the FBI Counterintelligence Investigation].
Rosenstein: We are dealing with the Intelligence Committee on that issue. Chairman Nunes met with Director Wray and me. I received the same briefing that he received. I don’t know any additional information beyond what he knows about that and I’m not able to produce any information beyond what the FBI has told me.
Gaetz: Are you aware of any payments made to any person to collect intelligence on the Trump Campaign prior to July 31, 2016.
Rosenstein: No. Keep in mind I wasn’t there. I only know what information I’ve obtained from the FBI.
Ask yourself why Rosenstein is providing the answers he is providing. Rosenstein knows what Nunes knows. No more. No less. Why is that? The answer seems apparent to me.
The Inspector General has an active investigation into these matters. It’s been ongoing prior to Rosenstein’s appointment on April 27, 2017. The answers to Gaetz’s questions lie in the midst of a serious investigation and will be forthcoming.
At this point, we begin the preamble to a big disclosure:
Gaetz: Did you read the FISA application before you signed it?
Rosenstein: I’m not going to comment on any FISA Application.
Gaetz: So you won’t say to this committee whether or not you even read the document you signed that authorized spying on people associated with the Trump Campaign.
Rosenstein: I dispute your characterization of what that FISA is about.
A short while later things got really interesting:
Rosenstein: No FBI personnel briefed me on it [FISA Application]. The process is that these FISA Applications and Renewals first come up through the FBI Chain of Command. They are sworn under oath by a career federal agent. I’m not the affiant.
My responsibility at that time was to approve the filing of FISA Applications because only three people in the Department were authorized to be the final sign-off…we sit down with a team of attorneys from the Department of Justice all of whom review that and provide a briefing for us about what’s in it.
I’ve reviewed that one in some detail and I can tell you that the information that’s public about that doesn’t match with my understanding of the one that I signed. I think it’s appropriate to let the Inspector General complete that investigation. These are serious allegations. I don’t do the investigations. I’m not the affiant. I’m reviewing the finished product. If the Inspector General finds I did something wrong, I’ll respect that judgment. But I think it’s highly, highly unlikely.
The public information on the Carter Page FISA Application does not match the briefing Rosenstein received prior to signing the renewal. This is a highly significant revelation.
Those documents were sworn to – under oath – and vetted by FBI Agents. Consider the ramifications if they were false…
Perhaps its the leaks regarding what’s in the FISA Application that are false.
Rosenstein signed the final FISA Renewal – sometime around June 29, 2017. After Mueller’s appointment as Special Counsel on May 17, 2017.
On July 27 2017, IG Horowitz notified Mueller of the Strzok/Page texts. On August 2 2017, Rosenstein issued Mueller a revised “Scope of Investigation & Definition of Authority” Memo. It was heavily redacted.
I really want to see the instructions laid out in that Memo. I also want to know when – and if – Rosenstein discovered discrepancies regarding his briefing for the FISA Renewal. And what those discrepancies might be.
If Rosenstein was correctly briefed and the press reports are wrong, who leaked the information and how does it differ from the actual FISA Application.
This was one of the most interesting segments from the testimony and more will surely be revealed.
The questioning by Gowdy is emotionally rewarding – he gives a voice to frustration felt by many. But Gowdy makes only statements. No questioning of Rosenstein actually occurs.
I believe this is probably by intent. Gowdy is likely one of only a handful of people who has a true sense of what’s transpiring behind the scenes.
Gowdy: If you have evidence of wrongdoing by any member of the Trump Campaign, present it to the damn Grand Jury. If you have evidence that this President acted inappropriately, present it to the American people. There’s an old saying that justice delayed is justice denied. I think right now all of us are being denied. Whatever you got finish it the hell up. Because this country is being torn apart.
Gowdy is correct in regards to our country. I think he knows what Rosenstein knows – and he wants it to come forth as soon as possible.
This was a fiery exchange. I encourage you to watch the video in full. A visibly frustrated Jordan was on full blast. Again, his line of questioning is emotionally rewarding – but there’s almost certainly more at play than what Jordan is aware of. Note also, the level of controlled anger that Rosenstein begins to exhibit. Some notable comments:
Rosenstein: I am Deputy Attorney General of the United States. I’m not the person doing the redactions…Whenever you’ve brought issues to my attention, I’ve taken appropriate steps to remedy them. So your statement that I’m personally keeping information from you, trying to conceal information, is not true. My job is to make sure that we respond to your concerns. We have sir. I’ve appointed Mr. Lausch, who is managing that production. My understanding is that it’s actually going very well. Your use of this to attack me is deeply wrong.
Rosenstein was visibly angered during this response.
The next exchange provides a potential window into another investigation.
Jordan: When I asked Peter Strzok if he’d ever communicated with Glenn Simpson, he gave us the answer he gave us dozens of times; ‘On the advice of FBI Counsel I can’t answer that question. Why couldn’t he answer that question?
Rosenstein: I didn’t give Peter Strzok any instructions.
Jordan: When I asked him [Strzok] if he’d ever talked to Bruce Ohr he said he had – three times – in 2016 and 2017. Then I asked him had you ever talked to Nellie Ohr and he said no, I haven’t. I said why can you answer that question because Nellie Ohr worked for Glenn Simpson, worked for Fusion…he couldn’t answer the question if he ever communicated with Glenn Simpson – a journalist.
Ask yourself why Strzok wasn’t allowed by the FBI to answer questions on Glenn Simpson. The answer that seems likely to me is because Glenn Simpson is currently the subject of an ongoing investigation.
Rosenstein closed with this:
Rosenstein: Thank you for making clear it’s not personal Mr. Jordan. You should believe me because I’m telling the truth and I’m under oath…Your going to get everything that’s relevant that we can find and produce to you. I support this [Inspector General] Report. I’m not trying to hide anything from you.
Again, I understand and empathize with Jordan’s frustration. But, unlike Gowdy, I don’t believe that Jordan is privy to all the facts.
Note: I couldn’t locate a clip of Ratcliffe’s questioning. This is the full video prompted to start at Ratcliffe’s sequence.
It is here that Ted Lieu has his almost comical outburst regarding Strzok’s testimony. Some notes on Strzok per Ratcliffe:
Ratcliffe: Strzok drafted the initial investigative plan on the Russia Collusion Investigation. He made investigative decisions and took actions to gather information and collect evidence in both the Trump Russia matter and the Special Counsel probe. Agent Strzok also admitted that before and during that same year he sent many, many texts about Donald Trump. He confirmed that he was the one who sent the text messages.
The Inspector General characterized these texts as deeply troubling and expressed his concern that Agent Strzok may have acted upon the bias expressed in those texts…on the Weiner Laptop Investigation – a matter he’s now investigating.
Special Counsel Mueller made it very clear that he [Strzok] was being removed from [the Special Counsel Investigation] for the texts but…Special Counsel never asked him if he acted upon the bias and hatred expressed in those texts.
What did Special Counsel do to determine whether or how the decisions made…how that may have prejudiced Donald Trump as a subject of the Investigation.
What has Special Counsel Mueller done to determine…if the evidence gathered by Strzok was impacted by his bias and hatred of President Trump?
Rosenstein: I can assure you he [Mueller]…has taken appropriate steps…Director Mueller and I learned about this issue at the same time. The Inspector General brought it to our attention after he discovered it. It was our understanding that the Inspector General was conducting an investigation of Agent Strzok. I don’t think it took Director Mueller very long after seeing those text messages to decide it was the right thing to do.
I’m beginning to question exactly what it is that Mueller is investigating.
There appears to be much more going on than many – including those in Congress – are aware of.
Nunes, Grassley and Goodlatte are probably fully informed. Many others…less so.
It was notable that Goodlatte praised Rosenstein for his efforts at the conclusion of the hearing.
Like so many of these hearings, the important details lay within the small subtleties – inferences to be pondered.
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