The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Friday submitted court documents revealing that former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was the Trump administration official who authorized the public release of hundreds of text messages between former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent Peter Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page.
In a witness declaration accompanying the DOJ’s motion to dismiss Strzok’s unlawful termination lawsuit, Rosenstein said he made the decision after providing the messages to Congress in order to protect Strzok, Page, and the Justice Department from the damage that would be caused if the messages were instead leaked to the media over a long period of time.
“The Department’s Office of Public Affairs (OPA) subsequently recommended providing the text messages to the media because otherwise, some congressional members and staff were expected to release them intermittently before, during and after the hearing, exacerbating the adverse publicity for Mr. Strzok, Ms. Page and the Department,” Rosenstein wrote. “Providing the most egregious messages in one package would avoid the additional harm of prolonged selective disclosures and minimize the appearance of the Department concealing information that was embarrassing to the FBI.”
Despite Rosenstein’s stated reasoning, it’s unlikely the former FBI employees will agree that his decision to release the messages publicly helped them avoid any harm.
Strzok filed the lawsuit in August against the FBI, Attorney General William Barr, DOJ, and FBI Director Christopher Wray, alleging that he was unlawfully fired from the FBI for expressing his political opinions. He also claimed that the DOJ violated his privacy by authorizing the public release of his text messages.
Page filed her own lawsuit against the FBI and DOJ in December, alleging that her privacy was unlawfully violated.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly vilified Page and Strzok, claiming their messages proved the “deep state” conspiracy theory that federal investigators attempted to malign the president as part of a politically motivated coup to remove him from office. However, that theory has been consistently disproven by several independent investigations, most recently by the DOJ Office of Inspector General report that concluded that the counter-intelligence investigation into the Trump campaign was opened with sufficient factual and legal justification. Inspector General Michael Horowitz said he did not find evidence that the investigation and numerous FISA application errors were the result of partisan bias.
Barr disagreed publicly with Horowitz.
“The Inspector General’s report now makes clear that the FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken,” Barr said. “It is also clear that, from its inception, the evidence produced by the investigation was consistently exculpatory.”
Rosenstein recently took a new job in the private sector, becoming a partner at international law firm King & Spalding on the firm’s Special Matters & Government Investigations team in Washington.
Read the full DOJ court filing below:
[Images via Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]
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