Tuesday, December 3, 2019

On Predication And Being A Weasel

CNN and Buzzfeed won their FOIA lawsuit and have made publicly available the 295 pages of "witness memoranda and notes from FBI interviews that were part of the special counsel's probe." One document that has already drawn interest is an FD-302 of a lengthy interview of Rod Rosenstein on 5/23/17--in other words, shortly after the appointment of Robert "Bob" Mueller as Special Counsel. The overall impression--highlights of which can be found here: Rosenstein, Sessions discussed firing Comey in late 2016 or early 2017: FBI notes--is in my opinion highly unflattering toward Rosenstein.

Here are the main takeaways.

Before either Sessions or Rosenstein were ever confirmed for the AG and DAG positions, they began discussing the removal of disgraced former FBI Director James Comey. Those discussions took place in late 2016 or early 2017. Rosenstein (and presumably Sessions) was disturbed by Comey's handling of the Clinton email investigation, believing that Comey had violated pretty much all of the DoJ rules and established procedures in handling that case. Rosenstein consulted with various DoJ officials who all shared the same opinion and even began sounding out people who might replace Comey. However, he stopped doing so when President Trump expressed public confidence in Comey. The bottom line is that Rosenstein as well as Sessions believed that Comey should be fired for cause and made that issue one of the earliest topics they considered before being confirmed. Here is Rosenstein's account of that:

Rosenstein also recalled being invited late 2016 or early 2017 to Sessions' senatorial office for coffee. During this conversation, Rosenstein told Sessions he was friends with Comey but believed there should be a change in FBI management because the FBI's reputation had been damaged "because of 2016." Rosenstein agreed with Sessions it would be "appropriate to have a fresh start."

Note that Rosenstein appears to present the Comey firing issue as his own idea.

However, in the interview, Rosenstein related to the FBI agents that he was "angry, ashamed, horrified and embarrassed" by the way the Comey firing was handled. Apparently, even though he had long believed that Comey should be fired for cause, and had written a memorandum detailing all the reasons why Comey should be fired, Rosenstein objected to: 

1) The characterization of Comey's firing as his idea--even though it essentially was--was, he told the agents, "inconsistent with my experience and personal knowledge." Here is Rosenstein's understanding of it:

Rosenstein reiterated his goal in drafting his memorandum was not to "fire Comey." It never occurred to him he "would be responsible for determining whether to remove him." It never crossed his mind the removal of Comey would impact the Russia investigation. Rosenstein "doesn't know what the White House was thinking." The notion that removing Comey would impact the FBI's Russia investigation never crossed his mind.
Rosenstein was comfortable with Comey either being fired or not fired. Rosenstein did not believe staffing decisions were his to make; the deputy attorney general was only to make recommendations. 

And yet, he had discussed firing Comey months earlier.

2) The fact that the firing was accomplished by email.

While these aren't unreasonable objections per se, or at least are reasonable grounds for being unhappy, what followed--the appointment of a special counsel--becomes highly problematic in light of all that preceded it.

First of all we learn that when Rosenstein contacted Mueller about the Director position, Mueller stated that he wasn't interested. Yet somehow or other Mueller was brought to the Oval Office--to be interviewed for the Director position. Now, Mueller has said that he was only offering ideas on how to manage the FBI, but that's not exactly what Rosenstein says in the interview--he clearly presents Mueller's visit to the Oval Office as a job interview but pushes the responsibility for that off on Jody Hunt. Despite Mueller's already stated lack of interest. It doesn't totally add up when we look at the timeline.

Rosenstein makes it clear that virtually immediately after the Comey firing he began considering not only a replacement for Comey but also a special prosecutor. Why? In fact, he says that "of course" he had been considering a special counsel "before that time". Why "of course"? The "of course" appears to reflect Rosenstein's concerns "in light of all the controversy surrounding the investigation", and "public perception of the process." "It did not," he said, "reflect a lack of confidence"--presumably in the FBI and DoJ. But are we supposed to believe that the idea of getting Mueller to be special counsel hadn't already occurred to him?

This is truly remarkable. Throughout the interview Rosenstein presents himself as upholding DoJ standards--with regard to others. But when he's making the decisions, well, not so much.

The regulations governing the appointment of a special counsel are very clear: There needs to be a determination that there is a conflict of interest involving "a United States Attorney's Office or litigating Division of the Department of Justice." That's not optional. It's required. And yet Rosenstein speaks only of "public perception" rather than any supposed conflict of interest. He even states that his decision didn't "reflect a lack of confidence"--which would, in the circumstances, indicate that he saw no conflicts.

That impression is strengthened by Rosenstein's repeated statements that he understood and had been briefed that there was "no evidence the President was involved personally" and that the prosecutors "confirmed for Rosenstein the President was not a suspect." That being the case, where was the conflict of interest in investigating people who were no longer associated with the President? No conflict is referred to in Rosenstein's actual appointment memorandum and Rosenstein even tells the interviewing agents that the prosecutors specifically told him there was no need for additional investigative resources.

And yet, with all his sensitivity for "public perception" when he was the one involved, Rosenstein apparently cared not at all regarding the public perception that this appointment would have with regard to the POTUS. If Rosenstein failed to understand the effect on public perception his decision would have, he would have been the only person in the world who was unable to see that. The clear impression is that Rosenstein, who acknowledges that he was "stressed", was thinking only of his own position.

Also notable is that neither in the appointment memorandum nor in this interview does Rosenstein raise the issue of predication for the investigation. If we're to believe Rosenstein, the Mueller appointment was simply to allay "public perceptions" while the investigators carried on as before--without even a need for additional resources! How things changed, and rapidly. From the outset it was apparent that Trump was Team Mueller's real target. Could Rosenstein really have been as naive as he seems to portray himself?

I doubt it. After all, we know that he and others at both DoJ and the FBI were meeting and kicking around ideas about how to charge Trump with obstruction for firing Comey--a move that Rosenstein himself had raised months earlier. And Rosenstein had, by all accounts, sounded out a number of cabinet members regarding the possibility of using the 25th Amendment to remove Trump.

In light of all this and of later events, such as Rosenstein's own volte face, one is left with a portrait of a guy who was in way over his head, was totally self absorbed, and had few scruples about looking out for Numero Uno--taking the heat off himself. Concern for a properly predicated investigation and for the trauma to the country just didn't factor in.

Here are excerpts from the 302 regarding the Mueller appointment:

Rosenstein first contacted Mueller on May 10 at 7:34 am, but "of course" he was thinking about the issue of appointing a special counsel before that time. 
Then, at 11:30 am, Rosenstein attended a previously scheduled meeting with the prosecutors assigned to the FBI's Russia investigation. This was the first regularly scheduled meeting on the matter. During this first meeting, and in light of all the controversy surrounding the investigation, Rosenstein declared, "In my acting capacity as the Attorney General, leave no stone unturned" or words to that effect. However, those assigned to the case are career prosecutors, so in his personal opinion, telling them to do so was unnecessary because he knew they would do the right thing.
During his May 10 briefing, the team confirmed for Rosenstein the President was not a suspect. This was also Rosenstein's impression from his initial April 28 briefing he received from then Director Comey. Carl Ghattas may have attended this briefing, as well as several prosecutors.
Rosenstein elaborated that based on his May 10 briefing, "there appeared to be no evidence the President was involved personally." Rosenstein inquired whether they needed additional resources, and was informed there was no such need.
[Paragraph redacted]
Rosenstein's main reason for appointing a special counsel was due to public perception of the process. It did not reflect a lack of confidence. Rosenstein was inclined to appoint a special counsel immediately the morning of May 10. Rosenstein was concerned about his position at the Department of Justice and it caused him stress, but it did not influence his decision. 


  1. Brutal stuff. Sessions was also in over his head, esp. in such a degenerate environment as we've had these last (at least) 6+ years.

    Given the mentality of c. 1/3+ of the population,as sheep-led by the MSM, and given the low level of so many from whom PJT had to choose (for such key positions as AG and dep. AG), it's hard to see how this country will get thru the next e.g. 10 years.
    Unless Horowitz/ Barr/ Durham can knock it out of the park.

    1. Listening to Bongino. He's very good on the case Barr and Durham are building.

  2. Someone is lying here- if Trump wasn't a target, then why have special counsel? The only way I can square this circle is to assume Comey and the assigned prosecutors were lying to Rosenstein and that Rosenstein knew they were lying to him- otherwise, this makes no sense to me.

    1. So maybe lots of people are lying?

    2. I get the impression that Horowitz is the same as any Internal Affairs or HR leader - he's there to protect the leadership from inevitable staff misbehavior. But he's certainly NOT there to police the leadership.

      The upcoming IG report is going to whitewash the leadership and trash the staff. Maybe suggest more training and more "leadership oversight". I'm already disgusted and it hasn't even been released yet.

    3. Are you suggesting that he's a bureaucrat to the bone?

    4. Recall how Goudy has to wrestle all that negative information out of Horowitz.

  3. I opened the 295 page FOIA response. It is littered with redactions. To the point where it is incomprehensible.

    Can someone explain how providing massively redacted documents complies with FOIA?

    And if the answer is that FOIA permits redactions for national security purposes, what information could possibly be rightfully redacted, when the entire investigation into Trump was based on fabricated national security concerns?

    What transparency?

    1. I was specifically looking for the Rosenstein 302, so I didn't notice the rest. The Rosenstein 302 is largely unredacted. That said, we've seen the dishonesty with which the FBI redacted its doc releases--to hide totally non-sensitive info.

    2. Which, I suppose, must be laid at the feet of Christopher Wray.

      When the nation is crying out (both sides really) to learn the truth of what has happened (to destroy our national fabric) the FBI delivers ...incomprehensible...

      Can't anyone over there see the bigger picture?

    3. Wray was recommended to Trump by Chris Christie.

    4. FBI redacted a part of Text messages and later it turned out they were covering up buying an outrageously expensive conference table.

      Rob S

    5. Yep, that was one instance, but there were others that were simple instances of concealing facts that were relevant to the investigations.

  4. No further confirmation necessary that Rosenstein was in over his head. The Peter Principle in all its glory: promoted to his level of incompetence.

    From the outset he seemed totally adrift, and apparently easily manipulated into appointing a SC due to "public perception.". In addition, being caught red-handed, so to speak, contemplating invoking the 25th amendment!

    Cassander makes a great observation: the irrelevance of redactions due to national security concerns in an investigation based on fictions.

    Must reinforce The Narrative--inconvenient facts will always be ignored. They're playing to the media in order to maintain the charade. Otherwise, someone will notice FBI/DOJ has no clothes...

  5. Do you have any comment on this thread by drawandstrike:

    1. Thanks for pointing that out. I think Cates has it a bit wrong. What Barr said is that RR was cleared to run the "Russia" investigation at his Senate confirmation, in April. RR later became a witness to Comey's firing, but Barr's response is that RR was also cleared at the time of Mueller's appointment to handle all matters pertaining to Team Mueller. That's two separate "clearances": first by the Senate at his confirmation to handle "Russia" matters as they were at that time, second by DoJ ethics officials at the time of the Mueller appointment to handle all Mueller matters.

    2. But, yes, nothing would surprise me less than to see RR as a key witness in the future, because as I've said in the past, I believe Barr and Durham have their sights on the Team Mueller operation.

  6. Horowitz spent several years fighting the Obama admin, in order to be able to get any and all records he wanted from DOJ/FBI, which Holder and Yates refused.

    What was all that for, if now he's simply whitewashing?
    Did he just want to give the impression of doing oversight?

    1. People can be complicated. Those battles were about defending his turf as IG. That was personal. But you still raise a legit question.

    2. If IG Horowitz, as earlier, is blocked from some records, then critics can say he doesn't have the full picture--and is effectively impeded in his duty.

      What he does with his investigatory powers (with or without blocking) is a separate question.

  7. My sense is that RR is more complex, and more sinister, than his "I'm-over-my-head/oblivious-to-the-obvious" act might otherwise suggest.

    Note especially he is the one who suggests to Sessions, BEFORE Sessions is even confirmed as AG, that Comey should be replaced. But when Trump expressed confidence initially in Comey, RR drops the idea of replacing Comey.

    This is consistent with the hypothesis that the "insurance policy" that Stzrok/Page referenced in their text messages was framing Trump for an Obstruction claim that could be used to drive him from office, by Impeachment or public disapproval. This would be their only option once it became clear there was no evidence of Russia Election Collusion; hence the "Insurance policy," if all else failed.

    IF that was RR's goal, then firing Comey would be necessary if Trump didn't trust him, and thus would not take meetings with him (at which the FBI Director could try to elicit from Trump statements that would be useful in support of an Obstruction claim, bogus as that may be.) Hence, a new FBI director would be needed to gain access to Trump in person.

    But since Trump initially expressed confidence in Comey, and was happy to meet with him in person, the need to replace Comey receded, from RR's point of view.

    Reviewing Comey's memos after each meeting with Trump, the coup plotters (RR, McCabe, etc.,) would have realized that Trump was not saying anything that was terribly useful. At this point, I posit the coup plotters came to the conclusion that to sell an Obstruction claim against Trump for interfering with the Russia Collusion Investigation, they would need to get Trump to take an ACTIVE step that could then be characterized (wrongly) as Obstruction of the Russia Investigation, paving the way to appoint Mueller as SC.

    Note also, Comey's behavior with Trump likely was intentionally designed to provoke his own firing: he repeatedly (at least THREE times) said, gratuitously, to Trump:" You can always fire me if you are unhappy with how I'm handling things." He then proceeded to gratuitously assure Trump he was NOT the target of any investigation, but refusing to tell the public that fact, and all the while the FBI and DOJ leaked furiously stories to the MSM that Trump was being investigated for being Putin's bitch. Nothing could sour Trump on Comey's ability to run the FBI faster, and thus assure Comey's firing, than that sort of two-face disingenuous behavior.

    end part 1

  8. Part II:

    The appointment of Mueller, of course, also achieved another possible objective of RR's -- getting the Russia Collusion investigation out of McCabe's control, possibly because RR had concluded that McCabe was too volatile, and might make mistakes that could expose the coup plotters' sedition. Thus, from RR's point of view, it was imperative to get a SC appointed, and once appointed, to use the Comey firing as a predicate for an Obstruction investigation, because RR knew in May 2017 that the "Russia Collusion" investigation was a dry well, and it was time to activate the "Insurance Policy" Obstruction investigation under a SC controlled by RR, if they coup plotters were to have any chance of getting rid of Trump before his people found the proof of the illegal activities (partisan political espionage) that had been rampant in the Obama administration leading up to the 2016 election.

    The other purpose of Mueller's SC investigation, I have always suspected, was that it was intended as a cover operation for finding all the documentary evidence of illegal activity during the Obama Admin, and bury or destroy it. The fact that the same people who staffed (and "fixed") the MidYear Exam investigation into Hillary's Email Server were virtually the same people assigned to the Russia Collusion Investigation, and then moved over to Mueller's SC (Strzok/Page, for example) is precisely who you would use for the task, because they know what was done, and where the documents are located that need to be buried.

    If this hypothesis seems a bit crazy and ad hoc, that's because it was; the coup plotters never planned in detail for Hillary to lose, and had she won, no one would have ever uncovered any of this, and we'd all be in the dark. The Insurance Policy only became necessary because Trump -- against all expectations -- beat Hillary, and then the panic set it, including the 25th Amendment "wearing a wire into the Oval office" discussions started taking place with McCabe, RR, Stzrok, etc.

    1. Thanks, EZ. Many interesting points that I'll leave to speak for themselves.