‘It’s actually a very innocent email…’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) During an exchange with Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein sought to put to rest one of the many episodes that had raised suspicious about his motives in the Russian collusion probe he oversaw.
In October 2019, Judicial Watch revealed it had obtained via Freedom of Information Act request several emails between Rosenstein and former Justice Department officials that appeared to reveal an anti-Trump bias.
The emails, including one to former FBI Director Robert Mueller—only days before Rosenstein appointed Mueller as special counsel to lead the Russia investigation—also suggested a secret conspiracy to go behind the back of President Donald Trump.
“I assume you realize [that] the boss and his staff do not know about our discussions,” Rosenstein wrote to Mueller.
But Rosenstein, who oversaw the investigation following the recusal of then Attorney General Jeff Sessions, said the email was not about the appointment of a special counsel, nor even about Trump.
“It’s actually a very innocent email,” he told Grassley.
“… I certainly understand out of context how it looks nefarious, but I can assure you … I wouldn’t be putting anything nefarious in emails.”
Rather, he said, the email had been taken out of context and was actually referring to Sessions as “the boss” after he had approached Mueller to apply for the job of FBI director, which had been vacated recently by James Comey.
Rosenstein acknowledged that he had approached Mueller about his availability to lead a possible special-counsel probe but had not made a decision at the time.
Because of Sessions’s recusal in the matter, he was unaware of their conversation when approaching Mueller about the conflicting job opportunity, Rosenstein said.
“What happened there was that General Sessions had reached out independently to Director Mueller to ask him to come in for advice about a new FBI director,” he explained.
“… And so, that hasty email, which I know some in the media have misconstrued, I was simply alerting Director Mueller, when you talk to ‘the boss’ … keep in mind he doesn’t know anything about the Russia investigation,” Rosenstein continued. “It’s an example, senator, of how these things can be misconstrued.”
Rosenstein also addressed a separate email, in which he had corresponded with Mark Filip, a former deputy attorney general under presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and stated that he was “with Mueller.”
While the appearance of it suggested that Rosenstein had made up his mind to forge ahead with an investigation of Trump, Rosenstein maintained that he was actually in the room with Mueller when he composed the email.
“I believe when I sent that email I was actually in the White House counsel’s office,” he clarified. “…[W]hen I said I was with Mueller, I meant that literally, that Mueller was with me.”
Rosenstein said that the context also related to the search to fill the FBI director spot and that when he wrote “Duty calls. Sometimes the moment chooses us,” he was referring not to his decision to appoint Mueller as special counsel, but rather was making an appeal to the reluctant Filip’s sense of duty.