Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testified to Congress on Wednesday that he would not have signed off on a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant renewal to spy on former Trump campaign associate Carter Page had he been aware then of the unreliability of the underlying evidence.
“If you knew then what you know now, would you have signed the application?” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham asked Rosenstein during his testimony.
“No, I would not,” Rosenstein replied.
In December, the Justice Department’s inspector general concluded in a report that the FBI omitted crucial details in its requests for warrants to surveil Page, saying the agency neglected to inform the FISA court that the controversial Steele dossier, cited in applications to spy on Page, was unreliable.
The dossier was compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele who was investigating Donald Trump for an opposition research firm hired by the Hillary Clinton campaign. The dossier purported to show connections between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.
However, the inspector general did not say the FISA court should have declined to grant the warrants and nevertheless concluded that political bias did not compromise the FBI’s handling of the Russia investigation.
Rosenstein defended his approval of the warrants, however, saying that “every application I approved appeared to be justified based on the facts it alleged,” and blamed the FBI, which he said “was supposed to be following protocols to ensure that every fact was verified” but failed to do so.
The former deputy attorney general also defended his appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel for the Russia investigation.
“I decided that appointing a Special Counsel was the best way to complete the investigation appropriately and promote public confidence in its conclusions,” Rosenstein said. “I asked the Special Counsel to review each criminal allegation the FBI considered relevant to Russian election influence operations and recommended whether to close the matter; investigate because it might be relevant to Russian election meddling; or refer the matter to another prosecutor.”