Thanks For Nothing, Rod Rosenstein!
Rod Rosenstein is a cringing little man who once did a very good thing. He protected the Mueller investigation despite massive pressure from Trump to shut it down along with a coordinated smear campaign by Fox and the howler monkey brigade. He also threw his colleague Lisa Page to the wolves, baring her personal life and painting a target on her back, simply to buy himself an easier afternoon before the House Judiciary Committee in December 2017. And former Justice Department Spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores, now a CNN commentator, happily helped him do it and lied about it when she got caught. So these are not good people, and they should not live this down.
This story is back in the papers today because of Lisa Page's interview with Molly Jong-Fast at The Daily Beast. It's awful, and sad, and you should read the whole thing. In it, Page recounts being told that she was under investigation by the Justice Department's Inspector General, and realizing that, although she'd broken no laws, her affair with Peter Strzok was going to come out.
At the end of July in 2017, I am informed by the DOJ Inspector General's Office that I'm under investigation for political text messages and honestly, I have no idea what they're talking about. I have no recollection. And initially they're very coy about it. They don't tell me much about it. I don't have the first clue what they're talking about. What I do know is that my text messages will reveal that I had previously had an affair. I'm overwhelmed by dread and embarrassment at the prospect that OIG investigators, Andy, and my colleagues, now know or could learn about this deeply personal secret.
Although the IG promised not to make the affair public, of course it leaked, and of course the GOP immediately pounced on it to discredit the investigation of the Trump campaign's connections to the Russians who helped them win the election. That was inevitable -- it's just how DC works. What wasn't inevitable was the Justice Department selecting 375 of the most salacious messages and inviting reporters for a private viewing in the middle of the night on condition that they not source them to DOJ, a move calculated to make it appear as if the leaks were coming from Congress.
The DOJ had already delivered the entire batch of 10,000 texts to the House and Senate Judiciary and Intel Committees, and the RNC had already gotten their hands on them somehow. But to ensure widest distribution before Rosenstein's December 13 appearance on the Hill, Isgur invited the media in for a sneak peek, off the record.
Here's Isgur explaining the ground rules to BuzzFeed's Zoe Tillman, from a batch of emails dug up by the CREW crew.
Because who cares about public servants' privacy and the rule of law when there's stories to be spun, right?
As former DOJ spokesman Matthew Miller told Natasha Bertrand, then at Business Insider, "It's appalling behavior by the department. This is an ongoing investigation in which these employees have due-process rights, and the political leadership at DOJ has thrown them to the wolves so Rosenstein can get credit from House Republicans at his hearing today."
And yet, less than a year into the Trump administration, the entire DC press seemed willing to play along with the game. Here's Matthew Alexander of NBC Universal tartly sympathizing with the drubbing Isgur took after Bertrand broke the story of Isgur's late night machinations, because, "We also know what it's like when people accuse you of bias just because of who you are/what you represent."
LOL, who could possibly accuse the DOJ of bias for secretly leaking an artisanally curated collection of texts designed to discredit the Russia investigators and paint a target on their backs?
The only reporter besides Bertrand who offered any serious pushback was Mark Hosenball of Thomsen Reuters, who pointed out that there was zero precedent for releasing evidence in an ongoing investigation.
After which, Isgur LOST HER SHIT and accused him of badgering her and "acting like an advocate" when he pointed out that she was doing something entirely underhanded and unprecedented.
Nor was Isgur's snarking that Hosenball's question had been "answered by the DAG in the hearing" entirely on the up and up. In response to a query from Rep. Hakeem Jeffries about how reporters got Page and Strzok's texts before the hearing, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein said, "We consulted with the inspector general to determine that he had no objection to releasing the material. If he had, we would not have released it." Which was, not to put too fine a point on it, A LIE.
In response to a letter from Democratic Congressman Nadler, Raskin, and Jeffries, DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz wrote, "The Department [of Justice] did not consult with the [Office of the Inspector General] in order to determine whether releasing the text messages met applicable ethical and legal standards before providing them to Congress. [...] The Department did not consult with the OIG before sharing the text messages with the press."
As usual, Rod Rosenstein deflected and took no responsibility for throwing Lisa Page, his employee and a loyal public servant, under the bus. In response to the The Daily Beast interview with Page, he agreed that "Ms. Page received more opprobrium than she deserved for her mistakes," but claims the texts were "official government records related to FBI business and there was no legal basis to withhold them, so they should be released as requested by Congress." Which is pointedly not a defense of the DOJ leaking Page's personal communications -- which were evidence in an ongoing investigation -- to reporters in the middle of the night so they'd be public record in time for his appearance before Jim Jordan and Devin Nunes.
Which is about what we've come to expect from that whinging little toady. But congrats to CNN on snagging Isgur, truly an excellent hire!
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.