For Rod Rosenstein, the biggest point was a trap with no good way out.
During an intense grilling of the former deputy attorney general Wednesday during his appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz presented Rosenstein with a brutal choice about his performance when it came to overseeing the “Russian collusion” investigation into the Trump presidential campaign and President Donald Trump’s administration.
Had Rosenstein allowed the probe that consumed the first years of the Trump presidency to continue as long as it did because he was complicit in its manifold deficiencies? Or was he simply incompetent to hold the position he had?
Cruz’s peppered Rosenstein with the problems surrounding the probe revealed in a damning report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz in December.
— Benny (@bennyjohnson) June 3, 2020
The report documented 17 significant “errors” of commission or omission in the FBI’s applications to a secret court to conduct its investigation, including one in which an FBI lawyer altered a document to hide the fact that Trump campaign associate Carter Page had actually been a source for a U.S. government agency (probably the CIA) in the past.
That detail would have damaged the FBI’s effort to portray Page as a suspected agent working for the Russian government.
In most of his testimony on Wednesday, Rosenstein — who was the Justice Department official in charge of the “Russian collusion” probe and special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation because then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions had recused himself — tried to put all the blame for problems on the FBI.
Cruz wasn’t buying it for a second.
“You came into a profoundly politicized world and yet, all of this was allowed to go forward under your leadership,” Cruz said.
“That, unfortunately, leads to only two possible conclusions — either that you were complicit in the wrongdoing, which I don’t believe was the case, or that your performance of your duties was grossly negligent.”
That wasn’t the only damaging point Cruz made with his questioning. Over and over his questions suggested skepticism about Rosenstein’s oversight of the Mueller investigation.
Check it Cruz’s questioning here. Every minute of it’s worth watching.
In one string of questions, Cruz really got down to business.
When Rosenstein, who has left the government to practice corporate law, was reviewing the FISA surveillance application he signed, Cruz asked, did he know that the “primary source” behind the now-debunked Steele dossier — a substantial part of the basis for the FBI’s investigation — had disavowed it? (Rosenstein claimed he didn’t know it at the time.)
Did he know that “significant exculpatory information” — like that alteration about Page’s previous work for the U.S. government — had been omitted from the FISA application? (“Absolutely not,” Rosenstein said.)
Did he know that an FBI lawyer had “fraudulently altered material” that was used as the basis for the FISA application? (“I was not aware of it,” Rosenstein said.)
Did Rosenstein know the now-debunked Steele dossier that was so crucial to the investigation had been paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee? (Rosenstein didn’t “believe so.”)
The evasiveness, the quest for wriggle room was evident almost every time, and Cruz could apparently sense it. He bore in like a hunting dog on a trapped rabbit.
“Did you ask any of those questions? Cruz asked.
Naturally, Rosenstein wouldn’t, or couldn’t cop to either being complicit in what in hindsight was clearly a fabricated attempt to smear the Trump presidency and potentially remove him from office.
(Trump supporters don’t need hindsight for that; it was evident all the time, no mater how much Adam Schiff lied about it.)
But what Cruz’s questioning did do — along with that of other Republican senators — was show the American people how badly they’ve been served by some of the highest officials of law and justice in the country, and how deeply critical institutions like the FBI and Justice Department were pervaded by politics during the Obama years.
It’s a pervasion that overlapped into the Trump administration, and worked continuously against an American president duly elected by the process established by the Constitution.
In a plot that’s being gradually revealed, Trump’s foes tried to create a trap of the presidency itself.
One of the most critical points at issue in November’s election is whether those revelations are going to continue.
Every American — regardless of politics — needs to support getting at the truth behind the plot against Trump.
That could start with officials like Rod Rosenstein answering every question they’re asked.
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