Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will tell senators on Wednesday that he approved the now-suspect surveillance applications for ex-Trump campaign aide Carter Page because it looked proper at the time, and he didn’t know the bureau had ignored its own policies to justify the warrant.
Mr. Rosenstein, in testimony prepared for delivery to the Senate Judiciary Committee, also defended his decision to name a special counsel, Robert Mueller, to probe Russian activities during the 2016 election, saying at that point early in the Trump administration there just weren’t many confirmed U.S. attorneys who could have done the investigation.
Mr. Rosenstein, who served from the early days of the Trump administration until May 2019, was a key figure in overseeing that probe, which was charged with investigating whether anyone on President Trump’s team was conspiring with Russian operatives. The investigation found no conclusive evidence of such a conspiracy.
Obama administration officials signed off on three of the four Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act applications to monitor Mr. Page, who was suspected, but later cleared, of working with Russia. Mr. Rosenstein, who was deputy attorney general at the time, renewed the final warrant.
“Every application that I approved appeared to be justified based on the facts it alleged, and the FBI was supposed to be following protocols to ensure that every fact was verified,” he said. “But investigative reviews published by the Inspector General in December 2019 and March 2020 revealed that the FBI was not following written protocols and that ‘significant errors’ appeared in applications filed in connection with the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.”
Mr. Rosenstein said the application went through several rounds of scrutiny at the Justice Department before it was submitted to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to obtain a warrant.
FBI attorneys, supervisors, the FBI director and top Justice Department officials reviewed every FISA application to ensure there was “a valid and factual basis” for it,” he said.
Yet the inspector general concluded that the warrant to monitor Mr. Page was based in part on information from the now largely discredited Steel Dossier, and that an FBI lawyer changed information to hide the fact that another U.S. agency had a previous working relationship with Mr. Page.
The FISA court has since scolded the department for its handling of surveillance warrants and ordered fixes to the FBI and Justice Department process.
Mr. Rosenstein called for punishment for anyone who may have intentionally fudged facts in the FISA application process.
“Whenever agents or prosecutors make serious mistakes or engage in misconduct, the Department of Justice must take remedial action,” he said. “And if existing policies fall short those policies need to be changed. Ensuring the integrity of governmental processes is essential to public confidence in the rule of law.”