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Continuing Coverage of Testimony by Deputy Atty Gen Rosenstein at House Judiciary Committee. Aired 11:30-12p ET
Aired December 13, 2017 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
REP. LOUIE GOHMERT, R-TEXAS: -- or any other information acquired by virtue of my official employment.
If you make a memo of things that were discussed as part of your job, then it would be a violation of that agreement to send that to someone to leak to the press, isn't that right?
ROSENSTEIN: It well may be.
GOHMERT: All right, the question I'm about to ask, I'm not asking what you may have told Attorney General Jeff Sessions. I don't want to know any words used or ideas conveyed, nor sources referenced. In fact, I'm asking a question that could not possibly have any other answer other than one of two words, that would be yes or no. You are completely free to wholly answer this question with one of those two words and neither word is privileged, confidential, or classified. Here is the question.
As Attorney General Jeff Sessions' deputy, did you give Jeff Sessions any advice regarding whether or not he should recuse himself in the matter of the Russian investigation, yes or no?
ROSENSTEIN: No. And can I give a little bit of an explanation, Congressman. I appreciate you asking that question. I wasn't there. I was confirmed, I believe, on April 25th and took office on April 26th. I was not there at the time of the recusal.
GOHMERT: All right. did you ever talk to Bruce Ohr?
GOHMERT: Wasn't he four doors down from yours?
ROSENSTEIN: I haven't counted but he was down the hall.
GOHMERT: All right and of course, he's been demoted over the relationship with Fusion GPS and then of course we found out that his wife, Nellie was a Russian expert and was made by Fusion GPS through summer and fall of 2016 helping the Clinton campaign get a dossier from the Russians. How well do you know the people that work on your hall?
ROSENSTEIN: Well, it varies, Congressman. I think that is precisely -- it varies. Some of them I know well. Some of them I don't know as well.
GOHMERT: All right, of course everybody has some opinions, political opinions or otherwise. The key is not having those affect or bias you in the Department of Justice.
GOHMERT: Well, here is here is Mr. Strzok, some of his texts talking about Trump. He's an idiot like Trump. And Martin O'Malley said, well, a D-word, I'm not watching, I can't tell you how little I care right now, he is talking about the Republican convention, so much more substantive than the representative debates, and he goes on at some point, the Republican party needs to pull their head out of their blank. Shows no sign of occurring any time soon. Of course, he's -- the (inaudible) were told by Christopher Ray stands for fidelity, but these were all made in the course of infidelity.
Then he makes slurs against Kasich. He is just unbelievable; I hate these people, talking about the Republicans. No support for the women who has to spend the rest of her life rearing this child but we care about "life." A-holes. How the F can he be a Republican? On and on it goes. America will get what the voting public deserves and that's what I'm afraid of. Hillary should win 100 million to zero. Did you hear him make a comment -- anyway. This is not just political opinions. This is disgusting, unaccountable bias and there's no way that could not affect a person's work. Were you aware of just how biased Mr. Strzok was?
ROSENSTEIN: No, I was not.
GOHMERT: Thank you. One final thing. I'm asking a question, the answer's not classified or privileged. Based on information to the best of your knowledge, has the FBI ever used work product or report any part of which was paid for by a political campaign, political party, political candidate or prepared on a candidate's behalf?
ROSENSTEIN: Congressman, the issue that you're --
GOODLATTE: The time of the Gentleman has expired. The witness may answer the question.
ROSENSTEIN: I know that we're working with at least one committee, House Intelligence that has access to that information. I believe they'll get whatever information --
GOHMERT: I'm asking a general question.
GOODLATTE: The time of the Gentleman has expired.
Please answer the question in the form that it was already presented.
ROSENSTEIN: Not to my personal knowledge, but I'm not representing, I don't know everything about the FBI.
GOHMERT: And Mr. Chairman, point of personal privilege, since my character was slandered by Mr. Cohen who said that I never -- we never challenged Mueller until he came after the administration when he knows how tough I went after FBI Director Mueller. He's been here when I went after Mueller while Bush was President. He knows I have been after him because of the damage he did and what he stated about me is a lie. And I need the record to properly reflect that.
GOODLATTE: The Gentleman's comment is duly noted. The Chair recognizes the gentlewoman from California, Ms. Bass for five minutes.
BASS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. According to an august 17th FBI intelligence assessment titled black identity extremists, likely motivated to target law enforcement officers, quote, it is very likely that black identity extremists perceptions of police brutality against African Americans spurred an increase in retaliatory violence. So I've tried to get to the bottom of where this report came from, who did it, what its status is.
I've asked Attorney General Sessions, I've asked Director Wray. And so now I want to ask you. Did you order the FBI to conduct this assessment?
ROSENSTEIN: Sorry, what was the date?
BASS: August 2017, August of this year.
ROSENSTEIN: No, I did not.
BASS: Do you know who authored the report, are you familiar with the report?
ROSENSTEIN: I'm not familiar with the report. I'm familiar with the general issue.
BASS: And so maybe you could talk a little bit about the general issue, in particular when the FBI began tracking black identity extremism.
ROSENSTEIN: I think it's important for me to explain, Congresswoman, that the FBI does not make a determination with regard to domestic groups to investigate them based on their first amendment views or their affiliation. It bases its decisions on evidence of a propensity to violence. So with regard to members of any ideology domestically, the FBI would only be investigating if there were some indication.
BASS: Do you believe there's a political movement in the country called black identity extremism?
ROSENSTEIN: I don't believe the FBI intends that to encompass a particular political movement, what they do is they try to categorize different threats that they identify.
BASS: So you said investigate. But before you do an investigation, there's surveillance, correct?
ROSENSTEIN: Generally, no. There might need to be a determination first that there was a basis for an investigation typically before any surveillance. BASS: So how does that determination take place and where has it
ROSENSTEIN: If you want details, I need to get back to you. But the FBI has strict guidelines. As you know, several decades ago there was quite a bit of controversy about this issue. the FBI has very detailed guidelines for when they initiate investigations. And I'm not aware of any departure from those guidelines.
BASS: So one thing that -- and I am aware of the FBI's history from many years ago. COINTELPRO and many people are looking at this document, black identity extremism is COINTELPRO 2, one of the concerns that has been raised and that I raised with Attorney General Sessions and Director Ray is that this document, for whatever reason, was mass distributed to law enforcement offices around the country. Are you aware of that?
ROSENSTEIN: No, I'm not.
BASS: So when we talked to Director Wray, it wasn't clear how this term was even developed. In other words, what evidence was it based on to even come up with a term like that and then to write a document about it and then to distribute it to law enforcement around the country?
ROSENSTEIN: I don't know the answer to that, Congresswoman, but if it's of any reassurance, I have been any indication that the FBI is approaching this in a biased way. They're conducting investigations where they believe the person who is the subject represents a potential threat, not simply because they believe in an ideology or associate with an ideology, but because they represent a particular threat. And I believe the FBI guidelines are designed specifically to ensure that there are no abuses.
BASS: So what I am hearing from activists around the country, in particular, activists who were protesting law enforcement and police brutality or deaths at the hands of law enforcement is they're being visited by the FBI, that the FBI is leaving business cards. And then what the concern about that is that if they do engage in a conversation with an FBI agent and perhaps make a mistake, or maybe say something that isn't true, then they're vulnerable to be prosecuted for lying to a law enforcement officer. So the activists that have received visits by the FBI have never been involved in violence at all. Are you aware of that happening in any of your offices around the country?
BASS: Let me just express another concern about this. When a document that doesn't seem to have any scientific basis that develops a category called black identity extremism, that nobody can say whether or not it really exists, when you send a document like that to law enforcement around the country, you know, in some places, I will worry they will take that to say that any time there is an officer involved shooting, and then there is a protest, that the people that protest might be black identity extremists. ROSENSTEIN: Congressman, to the best of my knowledge, the FBI is not
investigating people who are peacefully protesting. I haven't read that document. I'll review it and see what it says.
ROSENSTEIN: I would appreciate it if you would. And if there is no basis for this term, that then the FBI take a step to retract the document and send a message to law enforcement around the country that no such category exists. I yield back my time.
GOODLATTE: The Chair recognizes the Gentleman from Ohio, Mr. Jordan for five minutes.
JORDAN: Did the FBI pay Christopher Steele and was the dossier the basis for securing warrants at the FISA court to spy on Americans associated with the Trump campaign? Really, when you sum it all up. It boils down to those fundamental questions. Did you pay the guy who wrote it? And did you use what he wrote, disprove and discredit the dossier paid for by the Clinton campaign, did you use it to go get warrants to spy on Americans? That's what it comes down to. And you're the guy who could answer those questions. And I was -- yesterday, I was convinced that the answer to those questions was probably yes, but today I'm even more convinced the answer is yes based on the text messages we got to read early this morning.
Mr. Rosenstein, you know Peter Strzok? Are you familiar with that name?
ROSENSTEIN: Yes. I'm familiar with the name and...
JORDAN: Former deputy head of counter intelligence at the FBI, Peter Strzok, that one.
ROSENSTEIN: I don't know his precise title. But yes, he had a significant rule in...
JORDAN: Peter Strzok ran the Clinton campaign, interviewed Mills, Abedin, Clinton, changed from the exoneration letter from gross negligence to extreme carelessness. Peter Strzok who ran the Russian investigation interviewed Mike Flynn, Peter Strzok selected by Mr. Mueller to be on his team. That Peter Strzok, we learned had all these text messages. We got to read some of them early this morning. Now, as my colleagues have pointed out, some of them are you know,, show he didn't like Trump. He and Ms. Page are exchanging text messages back and forth, show they don't like the President.
But that's nothing new. Everyone on Mueller's team -- no one on Mueller's team likes Trump. We already knew that. But I want to focus on one in particular, one in particular. And this is a text message from Mr. Strzok to Ms. page recalling a conversation and a meeting that took place in Andrew McCabe's office, deputy director of the FBI recalling a meeting earlier and Mr. Strzok says this. I want to believe the path you threw out for conversation at Andy's office, then there's a break, it says that there's no way he gets elected, no way Trump gets elected. He says I want to believe that. You said that in a meeting in Andrew McCabe's office, I want to believe that, but then he goes, but I'm afraid we can't take that risk. This goes to intent. He says we can't take the risk. You know, the people of this great country might elect Donald Trump President. We can't take this risk.
This is Peter Strzok, head of counter intelligence of the FBI. This is Peter Strzok who I think had a hand in that dossier that was all dressed up and taken to the FISA court. he's saying we can't take the risk, we have to do something about it. Don't forget the timeline here either, Mr. Rosenstein. Peter Strzok, January 10th. he's the guy who changes the exoneration letter from gross negligence, criminal standard, to extreme carelessness. July 2nd, he's the guy who sits in on the Clinton interview. July 5th 2016, that is when Comey has the press conference that says we are not going to prosecute, Clinton is okay, we are not going to prosecute.
And then august 2016 we have this text message, the same month that the Russian investigation is opened at the FBI, August 2016. And my guess is that's the same month that the application was taken to the FISA court to get the warrants to spy on Americans. Using this dossier that the Clinton campaign paid for, Democrats paid for, fake news all dressed up, taken to the court. So I got really just a couple basic questions. Because it seems to me, if the answer to any of these -- of those two questions if the answer is yes, if you guys paid Christopher Steele at the same time the Democrats and the Clinton campaign were paying him, or if you took the dossier and dressed it all up, took it to the FISA court and used that as the basis to get warrants.
And now we have intent in this text message saying -- there's another text message. My colleague referenced it earlier where Mr. Strzok says I can protect our country at many levels. He says it with all the Janoli (ph) he could muster. I can protect our country at many levels. This guy thought he was super agent James Bond at the FBI. This is obvious. I'm afraid we can't take that risk. We can't -- there's no way we can let the American people make Donald Trump the next President. I've got to protect our country. This is unbelievable. I'm here to tell you, Mr. Rosenstein, I think the public trust in this whole thing is gone.
So it seems to me you've got two things you can do. You're the guy in charge. You're the guy who picked Mueller. You're the guy who wrote the memo saying why he needed to fire Comey. You are the guy in charge. You can disband the Mueller special prosecutor and you can do what we have all called for -- appoint a second Special Counsel, to look into this, to look into Peter Strzok, and everything else we have learned in the last several weeks.
ROSENSTEIN: Yes, Congressman. I can assure you that I can consider it very important to make sure that a thorough review is done and our inspector general is doing a thorough review. That's how we found those text messages as part of that review.
JORDAN: You've given that answer like 15 times. Let me ask you this. Are you concerned, this is what a lot of Americans are believing right now and I certainly do, that the Comey FBI and the Obama justice department worked with one campaign to go after the other campaign. That's what everything points to. Think about what we've learned in the last several weeks. We first learned they paid for the dossier. Then we learn about Peter Strzok. And then last week, we learned about Bruce Ohr and his wife Nellie. This is unbelievable.
So what's it going to take to get a second Special Counsel to answer these questions and find out if Peter Strzok was up to what I think he was.
ROSENSTEIN: I think it's important to understand, Congressman, we have -- the inspector general has 500 employees and $100 million budget. And this is what he does. He investigates allegations of misconduct involving department employees. That review that he is conducting is what turned up those text messages. It will also involve interviews of those persons and of other witnesses.
JORDAN: We're looking forward to his report and we've met with Mr. Horowitz. And we are anxiously awaiting that report. But that doesn't dismiss the fact that the country thinks we need a second Special Counsel. 20 members of this committee, the judiciary committee with primary jurisdiction over the Justice Department thinks we need a second Special Counsel.
All kinds of senators think we need a Special Counsel, what fact pattern do you have to have? What kind of text messages do you have to see before you say it's time for a second Special Counsel?
ROSENSTEIN: I want to assure you, Congressman, and I think the Attorney General explained we take very seriously the concerns of 20 members of this committee or one member of this committee, but we have a responsibility to make an independent determination and we will.
JORDAN: Thank you, Chair.
GOODLATTE: The Chair recognizes the Gentleman from New York, Mr. Jeffries for five minutes.
JEFFRIES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Rosenstein, there are approximately 14,000 special agents within the FBI, is that correct?
ROSENSTEIN: 37,000 total employees.
JEFFRIES: is it fair to say a majority of those FBI special agents are registered Republicans?
ROSENSTEIN: I haven't asked them and I wouldn't want to speculate.
JEFFRIES: Is it fair to say that the majority of the 14,000 FBI special agents have conservative leaning political views like much of the law enforcement community throughout the entire nation?
ROSENSTEIN: I'm certain that many of them do. I haven't counted.
JEFFRIES: Now, the Department of Justice, apparently, last evening, invited a group of reporters to its offices to view the private text messages that were sent during the election by Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, is that correct?
ROSENSTEIN: I believe that's correct.
JEFFRIES: No who exactly authorized the Department of Justice in advance of a Congressional hearing to invite reporters to come view private text message communications between two Department of Justice employees who were the subject of a pending investigation? Did you give that order, sir?
ROSENSTEIN: I think it's a very important question you asked, Congressman, because that was one of my concerns about this issue is what is the status of these messages and is it appropriate to release them and the determination was made that it is. so we gave notice to their attorneys, we notified the committee. And our goal Congressman is to make sure that it's clear to you and the American people we are not concealing anything that's embarrassing to the FBI.
JEFFRIES: So is it extraordinary that you would invite reporters for a private viewing in advance of a Congressional hearing?
ROSENSTEIN: Only if the information is appropriate for public release. If it's not appropriate for public release, it is never appropriate to disclose it to reporters.
JEFFRIES: Okay, now Shannon Bream is a Fox News Supreme Court reporter, she tweeted last evening at 9:29 that Fox News producer Jake Gibson has approximately 10,000 text messages between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. Now, it's my understanding that only about 350 or so were released to this committee, is that correct?
ROSENSTEIN: There are others that are being reviewed. And we assured the committee chairs that we're going to produce them as soon as we have them available, there are some redactions that need to be made.
JEFFRIES: How is it that possible that Fox News apparently has 10,000 text messages?
ROSENSTEIN: I wouldn't assume that's true just because it was in the news, Congressman, I'm not aware of that.
JEFFRIES: Okay, but this is a Fox News reporter who is indicating that, I'm sure we are going to get to the bottom of it, hopefully The Chairman in a bipartisan way would be interested in what is clearly -- would be a violation of law and Department of Justice proceedings.
ROSENSTEIN: If there were any evidence we disclosed information to a reporter that wasn't appropriate for public release or wasn't disclosed to the Congress, I would agree with you. But I'm not aware of that.
JEFFRIES: Okay, now the Department of Justice investigation should be free of political interference, true?
JEFFRIES: Let me put up a tweet from Donald Trump on November 3rd at 3:57 a.m. in the morning, god knows what he was doing at that time other than tweeting. It says everybody -- can we put that tweet up?
GAETZ (?): Can I ask the clock stop while we're trying to --
GOODLATTE: What was the Gentleman's request?
JEFFRIES: Yeah, the committee had been given notice of a tweet that I wanted displayed on the screen last evening, and I have been asking for that to be put up.
GOODLATTE: And there's some technical difficulty in doing that? Yeah, we'll suspend.
GAETZ (?): I believe the Gentleman had a minute and 45 seconds.
GOODLATTE: We'll make sure he has plenty of time.
JEFFRIES: Thank you, Mr. Gaetz (ph).
In the interest of time, Mr. Chairman, I'll just read what was written by the President. He said everybody is asking why the Justice Department and FBI isn't looking into all of the dishonestly going on with crooked Hillary and the dems. Let me ask you a question. Is it ever appropriate for a President, any President of the United States, to encourage the Department of Justice to launch criminal investigations against his or her perceived political enemies?
ROSENSTEIN: I'm not going to comment on that, Congressman. As I have explained previously, the President has put a team of experienced folks in charge of the Department of Justice. And we're not going to be influenced by anything other than the facts of law.
JEFFRIES: Was that an appropriate tweet for the President of the United States to send?
ROSENSTEIN: It's not my role to opine on that.
JEFFRIES: Does the President's repeated attempts to encourage criminal prosecutions against perceived political enemies concern you, sir?
ROSENSTEIN: Congressman, as I have said, we understand our responsibility. and we're going to continue to conduct our responsibility in accordance with the facts and the law, and I'm grateful that the President has put an experienced team in charge of the justice department who understand what to do.
JEFFRIES: Thanks. On June 20th, the New York Times published a wide ranging interview with Donald Trump in it, the President criticized you for being from Baltimore. Saying there are very few Republicans in Baltimore if any. So he is from Baltimore? ROSENSTEIN: It's true.
JEFFRIES: Mr. Rosenstein, are you unable to be fair and impartial because you're from Baltimore?
ROSENSTEIN: Well, I did work in Baltimore for twelve years. It's true, there aren't a lot of Republicans in Baltimore.
JEFFRIES: Okay, Donald Trump's statement had no basis in reality, correct?
ROSENSTEIN: As I said, that part of it was true.
JEFFRIES: Okay Preet Bharara was a former US attorney for the southern district of New York, true?
JEFFRIES: He was fired by Donald Trump in March? Is that correct?
ROSENSTEIN: Along with almost all sitting US Attorneys.
JEFFRIES: This office for the southern district of New York has prosecutorial jurisdiction over Trump Tower in Manhattan, correct?
ROSENSTEIN: Has jurisdiction over everything in its jurisdiction.
JEFFRIES: Okay, and Presidential interviews of US attorney candidates, that has been reported to be the case for Preet Bharara's replacement, that would be a departure from traditional Presidential protocol. Correct?
ROSENSTEIN: For the President to personally conduct the interview?
JEFFRIES: That's correct.
ROSENSTEIN: I'm not aware of all the prior practices. I don't think it was done in the last two administrations that I'm familiar with.
JEFFRIES: Okay, and you were appointed by President Bush, and then continued in that position
You were appointed by President Bush and then continued in that position as US attorney for Maryland by Barack Obama. That's correct?
ROSENSTEIN: That's correct. As a matter of law, I was appointed and never removed.
JEFFRIES: Okay, were you ever asked by President Bush for a loyalty pledge?
JEFFRIES: Were you ever asked by President Barack Obama to take a loyalty pledge?
JEFFRIES: Is it ever appropriate for the President of the United States to demand the Department of Justice official of FBI director have a loyalty pledge?
ROSENSTEIN: I don't have an opinion on that, Congressman. Nobody has asked me to take a loyalty pledge, other than the oath of office.
JEFFRIES: Thanks, I yield back.
GOODLATTE: The Chair recognizes the Gentleman from Texas, Mr. Poe, for five minutes.
POE: Thank you, Chairman. Thank you for being here. Just so it's clear, I'm one of the numerous members of the judiciary committee that have asked for a second special prosecutor based on what Mr. Jordan earlier said.
The Justice Department is responsible for investigating criminal conduct. Would that include criminal conduct by the NSA?
POE: Okay. We all learned under the prism that was happening years ago by the NSA that the NSA was doing, in my opinion, unconstitutional surveillance on Americans in their e-mails by tracking it and hacking into see those e-mails came to light under Snowden, after Snowden, who I care nothing for, brought that to America's attention. NSA said we're not going to do that anymore, which I think is appropriate because I thought it was unconstitutional. And we have heard reports through the media that there has been unmasking of information, what I mean by that is classified information is seized on somebody, and someone else, an American, that their name is caught up in the communication, and if someone leaks who that was, unmasked that individual, my understanding is if it's classified information, whoever does that unmasking has committed a felony. Is that correct?
ROSENSTEIN: The only distinction I would make, Congressman, is the unmasking is done in the course of intelligence analysis. Leaking would be a violation.
POE: That's what I'm talking about, the leaking of that information. And as of today, has anybody been indicted under prism? Has anybody been indicted under leaking information on unmasking up until today? Has the justice department indicted anybody under those two scenarios and events?
ROSENSTEIN: We have indicted, prosecuted people for leaking. I'm not certain -- I don't believe any of them are related to unmasking.
POE: So no one has been indicted, to your knowledge. Which I want to bring up now the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that has been discussed by this committee numerous times. It's the law that allows secret courts to issue secret warrants to try to go get terrorists that are operating overseas and get their information. Does the justice department present those FISA warrants to a FISA judge? ROSENSTEIN: In situations where a warrant is required, yes. It needs
to be obtained by a federal judge.
POE: That is right, the justice department is responsible for that, is that correct?
ROSENSTEIN: That's correct.
POE: Also under FISA, once again, Americans are brought into the scenario because you target a foreign terrorist, and then you go after their e-mails, and then you find e-mails of Americans. And those are inadvertently caught in the surveillance of the target. According to The Washington Post recently, 90% of those inadvertent e-mails are on Americans. And my question to you is, why hasn't the justice department, the FBI, the intelligence community, presented to Congress and our request that took place years ago, how many of those inadvertent e-mails, communications, text messages, conversations had been on Americans?
We have been asked for the number. Do you know why that has not been brought to our attention? And let me just follow up with this reason. Here's the reason we need it, we're getting ready to maybe reauthorize 702, which I have a lot of problems with. I think it's unconstitutional in many other ways. But beside the point, here we are at the deadline getting ready to reauthorize it, and still, the intelligence community refuses to tell us how many Americans' information has been seized. Can you tell us why we haven't gotten that information that we have asked for for years.
ROSENSTEIN: No, I testified at a hearing with Director Coates who I think would be a more appropriate person to answer that because he has access to the data, and he has explained it. But I would simply point out that you use the term inadvertent. It's a term that we use incidental.
POE: Incidental, I don't mind the name change.
ROSENSTEIN: My point is simply if you're investigating a foreign terrorist, knowing with whom that person is communicating maybe relevant to your investigation.
POE: That's not my question. My question was, we're getting ready to maybe reauthorize 702. I don't think we ought to reauthorize it until we find out from the intelligence community where there are no indictments --