Congressman Matt Gaetz Grills Deputy AG Rosenstein; Rosenstein Evades Questions
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz (FL-01) today attended the House Judiciary Committee Hearing on “Oversight of the FBI and DOJ Actions Surrounding the 2016 Election,” where he demanded answers from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Rep. Gaetz’s questions revealed that no FBI personnel had briefed Deputy AG Rosenstein on the FISA warrant he had signed, authorizing surveillance on members of the Trump Presidential campaign.
A transcript and video of the exchange between Rep. Gaetz and Deputy AG Rosenstein can be found below.
Rep. Gaetz: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Director Wray, I am in violent agreement with the statements you made after this report was published that nothing in the report impugns the patriotic work of the FBI employees who are serving in my district and around the world and this mess in Washington has nothing to do with them, and I want to make that very clear. And I appreciate your statements on that subject.
Deputy Director, the Democratic memo the President declassified says the Department of Justice accurately informed the court that the FBI initiated its counterintelligence investigation on July 31, 2016. Did any investigative activity regarding the Trump campaign and Russia occur before July 31, 2016?
Deputy AG Rosenstein: Congressman as you know, we’re dealing with the Intelligence Committee on that issue and Chairman Nunes met with Director Wray and me. I received the same briefing he received so I don’t know any information beyond that and I can’t produce any beyond what the FBI told me.
Rep. Gaetz: Are you aware as you sit here today of any payments made to any person to collect intelligence on the Trump campaign prior to July 31, 2016?
Deputy AG Rosenstein: No, but keep in mind I wasn’t there. I only know what information we’ve obtained from the FBI records.
Rep. Gaetz: Are you, as you sit here today, aware of any efforts to contact Roger Stone that occurred before July 31, 2016?
Deputy AG Rosenstein: I don’t have personal knowledge, but we are seeking to respond to Chairman Nunes’ request.
Rep. Gaetz: How about as it regards to Michael Caputo?
Deputy AG Rosenstein: I wasn’t there so I can only answer questions that we direct to the FBI and have them —
Rep. Gaetz: You’re there now, right? Have you asked these questions of anyone?
Deputy AG Rosenstein: We have conveyed the questions that Chairman Nunes has raised, and I am optimistic we will be able to respond to him fairly soon.
Rep. Gaetz: You could understand why that it would be of tremendous importance to the country that if the Department of Justice has represented to a court that this investigation began on July 31st, and you can’t tell me definitively that before July 31st there was not intelligence collected on the Trump campaign, that that’s something of great interest to us.
Deputy AG Rosenstein: Congressman, I think you should understand there’s nobody more commuted to rooting out abuse and misconduct than I. We talk with the FBI take this seriously and we look to find any credible evidence and if we find it we’ll produce that to Chairman Nunes.
Rep. Gaetz: Thank you. Let’s do that quickly. Let’s get to your determination to find out that activity that is occurring in your department. At the last hearing, I asked when you became aware that Nellie Ohr, the wife of your Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr was working for Fusion GPS and was actively assigned to the dossier that said nasty things about President Trump. As you sit here today, do you know when you became first aware of that?
Deputy AG Rosenstein: I believe it would have been sometime in the fall of 2017. As I think I told you last time, Mr. Ohr was never working to my knowledge on that Russia investigation.
Rep. Gaetz: But his wife was, right? He’s your Associate Deputy Attorney General and his wife gets hired for that. I asked you this question on the 13th of December. I wrote you a letter on December 18th, months ago, you have not responded to it. We need a date when you found out that the wife of your Deputy was working for people who are trying to undermine President Trump. Don’t you think that’s an important date for you to know about the spouse of your own Associate Deputy Attorney General?
Deputy AG Rosenstein: Yes, but I think it’s important for you to understand, Congressman, Mr. Ohr is a career employee of the department. He was there when I arrived. to my knowledge he wasn’t working on the Russia matter. I think it’s important for you to know when we learned of the information, we arranged to transfer them to a different office.
Rep. Gaetz: Let’s get to the FISA renewal you signed list for me the people who briefed you on the substance of that FISA renewal to spy on people.
Deputy AG Rosenstein: Here’s one thing that’s important for you to understand. People can make all kinds of allegations publicly. I am quite confident about my conduct throughout this investigation. That matter is under review by the Inspector General. We’ll see what the Inspector General finds.
Rep. Gaetz: Did you read the FISA application before you signed it?
Deputy AG Rosenstein: I won’t comment about any FISA application.
Rep. Gaetz: You won’t say to the committee whether or not you read the document you signed that authorized spying on people associated with the Trump campaign.
Deputy AG Rosenstein: I dispute your characterization of what that FISA is about, sir.
Rep. Gaetz: Did you read it or not?
Deputy AG Rosenstein: I’ll be happy to discuss details with her.
Rep. Gaetz: Did Peter Strzok brief you on it?
Deputy AG Rosenstein: No.
Rep. Gaetz: Did Lisa Page brief you on it?
Deputy AG Rosenstein: No.
Rep. Gaetz: Did Sally Moyer brief you on it?
Deputy AG Rosenstein: Let me explain the process if I may.
Rep. Gaetz: Did Trisha Anderson brief you on it?
Deputy AG Rosenstein: No FBI personnel briefed me on it. The process, sir, that these FISA applications or renewals first come up through the FBI chain of command. They are sworn under oath by a career federal agent. I’m not the affiant.
Rep. Gaetz: But you signed it? Did you thoroughly review it yes or no?
Deputy AG Rosenstein: Let me explain the process to you.
Chairman: The time of the gentleman has expired. The witness will be permitted to answer the question.
Rep. Gaetz: Did you thoroughly review it, yes or no?
Deputy AG Rosenstein: I’d like to explain the process. Director Wray can explain it, too, sir. My responsibility at that time was to approve the filing of FISA application applications. Because only three people in the department are authorized to sign it: the Attorney General, the Deputy, and the Assistant Attorney General for national security, which was vacant at the time.
It’s my responsibility do that. I had been relieved of that responsibility. Director Wray still does it every day and I don’t know what his process is, sir, but we sit down with a team of attorneys from the Department of Justice. All of whom review that and provide a briefing for us for what’s in it. And I’ve reviewed that one in some detail, and I can tell you the information about that doesn’t match with my understanding of the one that I signed, but I think it’s appropriate to let that Inspector General complete that investigation. These are serious allegations. I don’t do the investigation — I’m not the affiant. I’m reviewing the finished product, sir.
If the Inspector General finds that I did something wrong then I’ll respect that judgement, but I think it is highly, highly unlikely given the way the process works.
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