The controversial memo written up by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee reveals that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein approved an application to renew surveillance of a former Trump campaign employee shortly after he was sworn in last spring.
Rosenstein became the Deputy Attorney General in April of 2017, close to two months after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from all matters having to do with the Russian meddling scandal. A couple of weeks after he was confirmed, both he and Sessions wrote memos to President Trump recommending that FBI Director James Comey be fired. Comey was fired on May 9. About ten days later, Rosenstein appointed special counsel Bob Mueller to investigate the Russian scandal.
Some time after being confirmed, Rosenstein approved a request from the FBI to renew a warrant that allowed the bureau to continue surveillance of a former Trump campaign official, Carter Page. Page served briefly as a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign in the spring of 2016.
Page had been on law enforcement’s radar for years for having sympathetic views toward Russia. A trip Page took to Russia in July 2016 once again caught the attention of counterintelligence officials. They began conducting surveillance on Page in the fall of 2016, after he had left the Trump campaign. It’s unclear what concerned law enforcement about Page’s activities between that time and about six months later when they sought a renewal of that warrant. It’s also unknown at this time whether the top secret FISA court granted that request.
The highlighting of Rosenstein’s actions in the Republican memo though, show that the Deputy Attorney General may be facing increased scrutiny from Republican lawmakers as well as from the White House in the coming weeks.
To obtain the warrant on Page, the FBI would have had to show probable cause that Page was acting as a Russian agent. They would then have to get approval from the Justice Department for that warrant. The responsibility for approving such a warrant most often falls to the Deputy Attorney General. Once approved, prosecutors would then take that warrant to a FISA judge who decides whether to approve it.
The House Intelligence Committee has voted to release the Republican memo to the public. Under Committee rules, the president now has five days to approve the release or object to it. The White House has indicated that the president would like to see the memo made public. It was sent to the White House this evening for review.