On Thursday night, Rod Rosenstein took aim at the Obama administration, while he slammed the former director of the FBI, James Comey. For the first time since the Mueller report was released, Rosenstein, who was the U.S. deputy attorney general responsible for supervising the Mueller investigation, spoke out to the public to criticize the Obama administration’s reaction to the Russian hacking and their decision to “not publicize the full story” to the people of the United States.
While speaking in New York at the Public Servants Dinner of the Armenian Bar Association, Rosenstein defended the way he handled the probe but criticized other former officials while doing so. He pointed fingers at James Comey for telling Congress about the investigation into collusion from Russia during the presidential campaign in 2016.
Rosenstein said: “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 [Comey] 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 is getting harshly criticized for the way they handled the Russian interference. Trump has put the blame on Obama for not doing something fast enough to eliminate the influence that Russia had on the campaign.
Referring to unnamed high-level officials, NBC reported in 2016 that Obama’s administration didn’t respond more aggressively to the threat because they didn’t want it to look like they were the ones interfering in the election. According to an official who was speaking with NBC at the time, “they thought [Hillary Clinton] was going to win, so they were willing to kick the can down the road.” According to a reporter for NPR, the Obama administration discussed how to properly handle the information, but they decided that Obama should privately talk with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the matter.
Rosenstein covered several different topics while he was speaking. He slammed “mercenary critics” who financially benefit from expressing “passionate opinions about any topic, often with little or no information. 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.”
Trump and Rosenstein’s relationship has always been a little rocky. Rosenstein has also been accused by Congressional Republicans withholding documents as well as not aggressively investigating the obvious political bias within the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Last October, former FBI General Counsel James Baker gave a closed-door testimony before congressional committees. Baker provided details about an internal discussion regarding Rosenstein’s alleged offer to wear a wire to record the president in the days that followed Comey being fired from the director of the FBI in May of 2017.
Fox News has confirmed portions of the transcript to the Judiciary and House Oversight Committees. “At my confirmation hearing in March 2017, a Republican senator asked me to make a commitment. He said: ‘You’re going to be in charge of this [Russia] investigation. I want you to look me in the eye and tell me that you’ll do it right, that you’ll take it to its conclusion and you’ll report [your results] to the American people.”
Rosenstein continued by saying: “I did pledge to do it right and take it to the appropriate conclusion. I did not promise to report all results to the public, because grand jury investigations are ex parte proceedings. It is not our job to render conclusive factual findings. We just decide whether it is appropriate to file criminal charges.”
Rosenstein will be leaving his post in two months. He enjoyed giving his speech and he answered the one question that was on everyone’s minds after watching him stand behind Attorney General William Barr during the release of the Mueller report. “Last week, the big topic of discussion was, ‘What were you thinking when you stood behind Bill Barr at that press conference, with a deadpan expression?’ The answer is: I was thinking, “My job is to stand here with a deadpan expression.’”