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Rod Rosenstein shares his thinking about the Mueller investigation

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Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein shared some of his thoughts about his approach to and origins of the special counsel's investigation. At a speech at an Armenian Bar Association dinner Thursday, Rosenstein recalled that two years ago, at his confirmation hearing, a GOP senator told him he'd be charged with the Russia probe and demanded that Rosenstein promise to "do it right."

"'You're going to be in charge of this [Russia] investigation. I want you to look me in the eye and tell me that you'll do it right, that you'll take it to its conclusion and you'll report [your results] to the American people,'" he said the senator told him. 

Rosenstein agreed to the first two things the senator asked, but then explained, "I did not promise to report all results to the public, because grand jury investigations are ex parte proceedings. It is not our job to render conclusive factual findings. We just decide whether it is appropriate to file criminal charges."

He said that there were "some critical decisions" about the investigation that had been made before he was on the job as deputy attorney general. The Obama administration, he said, "chose not to publicize the full story about Russian computer hackers and social media trolls, and how they relate to a broader strategy to undermine America."

And the FBI had given classified evidence about the investigation to top lawmakers and their staff, and "someone selectively leaked details to the news media."

He then reminded his audience that then-FBI Director James Comey disclosed during a congressional hearing that "there was a counterintelligence investigation that might result in criminal charges."

"Then the former FBI Director alleged that the president pressured him to close the investigation, and the president denied that the conversation occurred," he continued.  

"So that happened," he deadpanned.

Because then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions had recused himself from the Russia investigation, it fell to Rosenstein to oversee it after President Trump fired Comey. 

"As acting Attorney General, it was my responsibility to make sure that the Department of Justice would do what the American people pay us to do: conduct an independent investigation," Rosenstein said, and "complete it expeditiously."

At the end of the special counsel's investigation, Rosenstein said, "[O]ur nation is safer, elections are more secure, and citizens are better informed about covert foreign influence schemes." But he noted that "not everybody was happy with my decision, in case you did not notice."

However, Rosenstein, who leaves the Justice Department next month, seemed to shrug off the months of invective leveled at him over the investigation. He's taking a longer view, it appears. Rosenstein quoted former Attorney General Robert Jackson, who said about 80 years ago, "'We must have the courage to face any 'temporary criticism' because 'the moral authority of our legal process' depends on the commitment of government lawyers to act impartially."

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