During a private speech Thursday evening, deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein lamented the Obama administration’s decision not to “publicize” Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election.
Rosenstein, who oversaw special counsel Robert Mueller’s recently-concluded investigation into Russian election interference, suggested that the Obama administration did the public a disservice by not publicly revealing “the full story” of the Kremlin’s attempt to disrupt the election while adequate counter-measures could have been taken.
“Some critical decisions about the Russia investigation were made before I got there. The previous Administration 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,” Rosenstein said during an address to the Public Servants Dinner of the Armenian Bar Association.
Rosenstein went on to criticize former FBI director James Comey for his decision to reveal the existence of a counterintelligence investigation into Russian election interference at the height of the 2016 campaign.
“The FBI disclosed classified evidence about the investigation to ranking legislators and their staffers. Someone selectively leaked details to the news media. The FBI Director announced at a congressional hearing that there was a counterintelligence investigation that might result in criminal charges,” he continued. “Then the former FBI Director alleged that the President pressured him to close the investigation, and the President denied that the conversation occurred.”
Obama administration officials elected not to publicize the extent of the Kremlin’s interference efforts because they believed they would be seen to be tilting the scales toward Hillary Clinton by exposing Russia’s preference for Trump, NBC News reported in December 2016. Their confidence in Clinton’s victory also bolstered their belief that alarming the public about election interference would prove unnecessary.