Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein expressed confidence Monday in Attorney General Bill Barr’s judgment in overseeing the special counsel’s Russia investigation, as Democratic lawmakers gear up to pressure the Justice Department to turn over Robert Mueller’s findings.
The timing for when Mueller finally delivers his report to Barr continues to be a moving target, and Rosenstein demurred when asked about the “process.”
Under the special counsel regulations, Mueller must detail why he did or did not opt to prosecute different matters in a confidential report to the attorney general at the end of investigation – but that report is not required to be made public.
“What’s the attorney general going to do? You have to ask him that question,” Rosenstein joked at an event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“I think Attorney General Barr is going to make the right decision,” he added. “We can trust him to do that. He has a lot of experience with this. … I think we can count on him to do the right thing.”
Barr has said he wants to be as “transparent” as possible with Congress and the public “consistent with the rules and the law” – but Democrats have criticized him for not pledging to release the full report and for his past evaluation of the special counsel’s obstruction of justice investigation.
Rosenstein, who oversaw the Russia probe for nearly two years and appointed Mueller in May 2017, also offered a potentially prescient reminder of the Justice Department’s general policy of not commenting on uncharged cases or individuals – especially salient remarks in light of the possibility of Mueller outlining derogatory information on uncharged people in his confidential report.
“My view is that the Department of Justice is best served when people are confident that we’re going to operate – when we’re investigating American citizens, in particular – we’re going to do it with appropriate sensitivity to the rights of uncharged people,” Rosenstein said, saying it was “an issue that we’ll be discussing nationally.”
“When we charge someone, we need to be able to prove it beyond any reasonable doubt,” he added. “And the guidance I always gave my prosecutors, and the agents that I worked with during my tenure on the front lines of law enforcement, were if we aren’t prepared to prove our case beyond a reasonable doubt in court, then we have no business making allegations against American citizens.”
On Sunday, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, once again dismissed the department’s stance on shielding uncharged individuals, saying he had told Rosenstein that the Department of Justice broke that standard by turning over a voluminous amount of materials regarding the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, which brought no charges.
When asked whether he was concerned about attempts to discredit the Russia investigation and Mueller’s work, Rosenstein expressed confidence in the American public.
“I think that you can be misled if you just follow the internet or cable TV about what American people think and how appropriately skeptical they are of information,” Rosenstein said. “I think people are appropriately able to balance different considerations, and so I am relatively optimistic about it.”