- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 27, 2019

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has taken some pointed jabs at how the Obama administration chose to combat Russian election interference, noting it stayed mostly mum as Moscow hacked Democratic Party computers.

In a speech in New York, Mr. Rosenstein also complained of “fake stories” about him while defending his pivotal decisions in the long Trump-Russia saga.

Mr. Rosenstein was only in office a month when he wrote a blistering attack on FBI Director James B. Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email-classified material scandal. He then was stunned to see President Trump cite it to fire Mr. Comey in May 2017.

Mr. Rosenstein, a career Justice Department prosecutor, responded by quickly naming former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate Mr. Trump and 2016 Russian election interference. The move greatly angered the president as Mr. Mueller assembled a team of prosecutors heavy on Democratic Party donors.

The New York Times reported Mr. Rosenstein, rattled by the Comey firing, talked of wearing a wire in a White House meeting with Mr. Trump.



In his speech Thursday night, all that turmoil was absent. Mr. Rosenstein devoted one paragraph to list a number of Russia probe events that “were made before I got there.” It was a signal he may well have done things differently had he been sworn in before April 27, 2017.

Mr. Rosenstein, a stickler for investigative secrecy, said:

“Some critical decisions about the Russia investigation were made before I got there. The previous administration chose not to publicize the full story about Russian computer hackers and social media trolls, and how they relate to a broader strategy to undermine America. The FBI disclosed classified evidence about the investigation to ranking legislators and their staffers. Someone selectively leaked details to the news media. The FBI director announced at a congressional hearing that there was a counterintelligence investigation that might result in criminal charges. Then the former FBI director alleged that the president pressured him to close the investigation, and the president denied that the conversation occurred. So that happened.”

The Obama administration knew the Russians were hacking Democratic Party computers in early 2016 and notified the Democratic National Committee. But officials didn’t tell the public or warn the Trump campaign.

Only after WikiLeaks began posting thousands of Russia-stolen Democratic Party documents in July 2016, did the intelligence community go public. It released a report in October that fingered Russia.

Mr. Comey disclosed the counterintelligence probe of the entire Trump campaign at a March 20, 2017, House hearing, a month before Mr. Rosenstein took office. Trump associates complained it branded them all as targets of a criminal probe. Two years later, no Trump aide was charged with collusion.

Republicans didn’t like how he began the 22-month, Trump-Russia investigation; Democrats didn’t like how he ended it.

“Then there are the mercenary critics, who get paid to express passionate opinions about any topic, often with little or no information,” Mr. Rosenstein said. “They do not just express disagreement. They launch ad hominem attacks unrestricted by truth or morality. They make threats, spread fake stories, and even attack your relatives. I saw one of the professional provocateurs at a holiday party. He said, ‘I’m sorry that I’m making your life miserable.’ And I said, ‘You do your job, and I’ll do mine.’ “

Today, Mr. Rosenstein seems on more solid ground within the administration as he prepares to retire. Attorney General William P. Barr asked him to stay on to receive the 448-page Mueller report. It found no Trump conspiracy with Russia, but did provide the basis for possible obstruction of justice allegations against the president.

Mr. Rosenstein joined Mr. Barr in concluding the president’s actions during the probe didn’t amount to obstruction.

Still there are hard feelings in the Trump camp. John Dowd, the president’s former attorney, told The Washington Times that Mr. Rosenstein failed to give Mr. Trump or the White House counsel a heads-up on naming Mr. Mueller and has never explained why.

Mr. Rosenstein spoke Thursday to the Armenian Bar Association’s Public Servants Dinner in New York as four current U.S. attorneys, some still investigating Trump associates, looked on. His wife is of Armenian descent.

Mr. Rosenstein seemed to address conservative critics of Mr. Mueller’s Democratic-aligned prosecutors when he said,

“I do not care how police officers, prosecutors, and judges vote, just as I do not care how soldiers and sailors vote. That is none of my business. I only care whether they understand that when they are on duty, their job is about law and not politics. There is no Republican justice and Democrat justice. There is only justice and injustice.”

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