12.11.2017 0

Did Rosenstein pressure Sessions to recuse himself from Russia probe to ultimately get Mueller appointed Special Counsel?

By Robert Romano

Did Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein pressure Attorney General Jeff Sessions in March to recuse himself from the Justice Department’s investigation into Russia’s supposed interference in the election in order to get Special Counsel Robert Mueller appointed?

When Rosenstein appears before the House Judiciary Committee on Dec. 13, perhaps somebody might want to ask him.

It was Rosenstein who recommended to Sessions on May 9 that FBI Director James Comey be fired for his conduct in the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server containing classified information.

At the time, Rosenstein stated, “the FBI is unlikely to regain public and congressional trust until it has a Director who understands the gravity of the mistakes [made in the investigation] and pledges never to repeat them. Having refused to admit his errors, the Director cannot be expected to implement the necessary corrective actions.”

The same day, on May 9, President Donald Trump followed Rosenstein’s advice and fired Comey.

On May 17, eight days later, Rosenstein appointed the Special Counsel to look into, among other things, whether firing Comey somehow constituted obstruction of justice. Even though, in Rosenstein’s own memo, it clearly, unequivocally states, “the President has the power to remove an FBI director…”

By then, between March 2 and May 17, Rosenstein was fully in charge of the investigation and today he still oversees the Special Counsel investigation. Now, under Rosenstein, the FBI and the Special Counsel’s office is coming under increasing fire by Congress for having politically tainted investigators, including Peter Strzok and Bruce Ohr, on the investigation.

In addition, the House Select Committee on Intelligence is holding Rosenstein in contempt for stonewalling this political bias on the investigation from coming to light.

It raises the question, was Rosenstein setting Trump and Sessions up with the advice to fire Comey? Was he pressured himself to appoint the Special Counsel?

Because, it might help to explain the sequence of events that led to the appointment of Robert Mueller as Special Counsel, and Rosenstein’s most recent statement that he is satisfied with the conduct of Mueller, who is coming under increasing fire for utilizing pro-Clinton, anti-Trump investigators and attorneys for his team.

“The Office of Special Counsel, as you know, has a degree of autonomy from the Department of Justice. But there is appropriate oversight by the department. That includes budget. But it also includes certain other details of the office. It is part of the Department of Justice. And we’re accountable for it,” Rosenstein told NBC News in Washington, D.C. in an exclusive interview.

Rosenstein oversees the Special Counsel. So, the question is, was he the one who pressured Sessions into recusing himself?

Recall, the pressure for Sessions to recuse himself mounted after the March 1 story by the Washington Post that revealed in his capacity as Senator, he had had a meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in 2016 and then again at a separate event in Cleveland at the Republican National Convention hosting ambassadors from many nations where both had attended.

It turned out that one of the sources for that story was none other than Sessions himself, who in testimony at the June 13 hearing before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence stated, “It was only in March, after my confirmation hearing, that a reporter asked my spokesperson whether I had ever met with any Russian officials. This was the first time that question had squarely been posed to me. On the same day we provided the reporter the information related to the meeting that I and my staff had held in my Senate office with Ambassador [Sergey] Kislyak as well as the brief encounter in July after a speech that I had given during the convention in Cleveland, Ohio.”

The encounters had not been previously disclosed at Sessions’ confirmation hearing in response to sweeping allegations made by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) that the U.S. intelligence community had advised then-President Elect Donald Trump that Russian intelligence had compromising information on Trump and that there had been continued communications between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, presumably colluding on hacking the election.

That line of questioning was ultimately referring to the now-discredited Christopher Steele dossier, which was paid for by the DNC and the Hillary Clinton Campaign, which had not yet been published. Sessions denied any role in colluding with Russia.

Once the Washington Post story was published, a day later, Sessions recused himself.

What followed was the rapid road to Mueller, paved with other direct actions by Rosenstein. Now, it is up to Congress — which is investigating the political bias inherent in the Trump-Russia collusion investigation — to find out whether the appointment itself was tainted with politics, and was pre-planned.

Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.

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