Covering for Rod Rosenstein

It appears a campaign has begun in earnest to bat cleanup for Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Rod Rosenstein, presenting him as a victim of circumstance in the sordid saga of the attempted coup against a duly-elected President of the United States.

Let me disavow you of that notion.

First a little background from the FISC website:

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) was established by Congress in 1978.  The Court entertains applications made by the United States Government for approval of electronic surveillance, physical search, and certain other forms of investigative actions for foreign intelligence purposes.

The court was created to allow American intelligence and law enforcement to apply to the court for warrants to conduct surveillance on foreign spies. The legislation creating this court was called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), so this court is sometimes referred to as the FISA court.

Applications to the FISC seek  to acquire surveillance warrants on foreign spies who may be involved in espionage or other federal crimes that have an impact on the national security of the United States. There is no standard before this court of probable cause for a warrant that is required in the criminal court system for American citizens. There is an honor system at FISC wherein evidence in a FISA application is sworn to be true and correct by the public officials who are the application signatories. As the Wall Street Journal reported in 2013, the standard is so low for successful warrant applications, only 11 of the over 33,000 FISA warrant applications had at that point been rejected in the 33 years of the court’s existence.

These warrants must be renewed every 90 days.

Among his duties and authorities as the DAG, Rod Rosenstein is one of the signatories on FISA warrant applications. Rosenstein signed off on the last renewal application to the FISC to continue surveillance on Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page.

A few things should be noted here:

  1. Prior to Rosenstein’s tenure, the first FISA applications submitted by top officials in the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FBI were rejected by the FISC. There was no evidence/information in the application submitted to the court that rose to a level that would warrant surveillance of an American citizen (Carter Page) as a Russian spy–even by their low standard.
  2. Just before the November Presidential election, in October of 2016, DOJ and FBI officials added into the first successful Page FISA warrant application what has become known as the “Russia Dossier,” a document created by a former British spy, Glenn Simpson, at his company, Fusion GPS, which was paid for by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign, Hillary For America. Prior to adding this material, all other applications in the Carter Page matter were rejected.  These law enforcement officials did not disclose to the court that the “dossier” document was opposition research material paid for by the DNC and by Hillary Clinton–a fact that they well knew. They instead included the material in the application and signed off, certifying that this material was true and correct.  As a result, the first FISA application was approved in October of 2016, just before the Presidential election November 8, 2016.
  3. The reason they sought a FISA search/surveillance warrant at all is because there was no probable cause for a warrant in a criminal court. So, instead of opening a criminal investigation, because there was no predicate crime or probable cause, they used Hillary Clinton’s campaign opposition research to secure the foreign surveillance warrant, a fact they did not disclose to the court.
  4. In October of 2016, these officials were able to secure the warrant to conduct electronic surveillance on Carter Page and everyone he talked to and everyone they talked to and so on, meaning the entirety of the Trump campaign lay before them. By the time the first 90-day renewal period came up, the Trump campaign had become the victorious Presidential transition team and Carter Page was no longer in the picture. Yet officials kept renewing the warrant on Page to conduct the surveillance using the “dossier” material.
  5. In June of 2017, long before the fact that the “dossier” had been used to obtain the FISA warrant became public, then FBI Director James Comey testified before a Senate Intelligence Committee oversight hearing that the material contained in the “dossier” was “salacious and unverified.”
  6. To this day there are no charges filed against Page or anyone else on the Trump campaign alleging any one of them has engaged in any criminal “collusion” activity in regard to any foreign country, including Russia. “Collusion” in and of itself is not a crime–people are free to collude at will on anything lawful. If collusion were illegal, you could go to jail for colluding to have a surprise birthday party for a friend or for colluding on details of a travel plan for summer vacation. There must be a predicate crime, an unlawful behavior, connected to the “collusion.”
  7. This surveillance and counterintelligence investigation has been going on for over two years at this writing. Given what’s at stake for those who have been fired and with others’ careers hanging in the balance not to mention the investigations of and possibility of criminal charges against these government officials, if there was one shred of evidence against any of the targets of this unlawful surveillance, they would long ago have been charged.
  8. In full knowledge of this background, unless completely brain dead, the newly-appointed DAG Rod Rosenstein should be expected to actually read the FISA warrant application to extend this foreign intelligence surveillance for another 90 days (the fourth such extension) before he signed it. This was surveillance on an American citizen, Carter Page, whose volunteer service to the Trump campaign had long ago ended and he was nowhere near the new Trump administration. Who were the targets of these surveillance operations in August of 2017?

Fast forward to June 28, 2018, when as a part of his duties as DAG, Rosenstein testified before the House Judiciary Committee in an oversight hearing.  When questioned about the FISA warrant applications in the Page matter, Rosenstein twice admitted in testimony that he did not read the FISA application he signed to renew foreign intelligence surveillance on Carter Page. He testified that he was briefed on a summary of its contents. DAG Rosenstein signed the application in 2017 as a public official certifying to the FISA court that its contents were true and accurate, even though he had not read it himself. In this application, the true nature and source of the “salacious and unverified” information still was not disclosed to the court.

Why would anyone at this point not read the material before signing and therefore vouching for its truth and accuracy?  At that level, a standard of professionalism would demand that the materials be read, especially given the sensitivity of the subject matter and the circumstances at hand for the newly-appointed DAG. At best, Rosenstein’s lack of judgment shows he is unfit to serve in that or any capacity where honoring the rights of American citizens are at issue.

Let’s for a moment assume that Rosenstein is not part of the cover-up of the attempted coup against a duly-elected President, that he is the hapless victim of unscrupulous actors from a prior administration who are, by the way, his friends. That still leaves on the table the fact that he signed the fraudulent FISA warrant application extension and, whether he read it or not, he owns it.  He should be removed from office, by firing or impeachment, and tried for perpetrating a fraud upon the court along with everyone else who did same.

America is founded on the principle that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights–not, as some would suggest, a government-enforced notion of equal outcomes (which don’t exist) but equality before the law, a level playing field, a government that protects the enumerated rights of all of its citizens. To continue to hold government officials like Rod Rosenstein, and others, to a different standard will destroy the rule of law and the very notion of self-governance which under-girds our survival as a nation in freedom.