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Ted Cruz Put Rod Rosenstein On The Spot: Either You Were ‘Complicit’ or ‘Grossly Negligent’

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) laid into former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein during Wednesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on the FBI’s investigation into Russian election interference. In a heated exchange between the two, Cruz said Rosenstein presided over a “profoundly politicized” Department of Justice, accusing him of being either “complicit” in wrongdoing or “grossly negligent” in the execution of his duties.

Cruz began his questioning with the rather hyperbolic claim that Obama administration’s alleged “abuse of power” in overseeing the Russia investigation made “everything Richard Nixon even contemplated pale in comparison,” saying Nixon “rightfully faced impeachment” before his resignation over the Watergate scandal.

Cruz claimed that the publicly available evidence indicated that the Obama administration “targeted” President Donald Trump and weaponized the Department of Justice and the intelligence community.

Cruz failed to mention that the FBI had also been conducting an aggressive investigation into Trump’s then-opponent in the election Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email server during her time as Secretary of State.

The Texas senator also echoed some of the claims that have grown from the “Obamagate” conspiracy and the idea that “Joe Biden himself personally unmask[ed] Michael Flynn’s name.” But Flynn’s name was never redacted from the FBI’s report on his conversations with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Critics say the general capturing of citizens’ communications while U.S. authorities listen in on foreign conversations is the root of the problem.

Cruz then moved on to discussing Rosenstein’s role in the Russia investigation.

“Mr. Rosenstein, on May 17 you appointed Bob Mueller the special counsel. On June 29 you signed the third FISA application. On Aug. 2 you signed the second scope application,” Cruz said. “You came into a profoundly politicized world and yet all of this was allowed to go forward under your leadership. That unfortunately leads to only two possible conclusions: either that you were complicit in the wrongdoing, which I don’t believe was the case. Or that your performance of your duties was grossly negligent.”

Cruz then concluded his time by returning to the investigation into Flynn.

“Did it strike you as strange that the FBI and the DOJ was going after a three-star general, the incoming National Security Advisor to the president who they already said they were going to dismiss the case against and their predicate for all this is the Logan Act, which you know personally well is an unconstitutional law” Cruz said, asking Rosenstein why he didn’t “laugh this out of the room.”

Flynn was ultimately not prosecuted under the Logan Act, which prohibits civilians from engaging in U.S. foreign policy; he was charged with lying to the FBI about his conversations with Kislyak. He twice pleaded guilty to those charges before moving to withdraw his guilty plea, a point Rosenstein made in his response.

“My understanding at the time that I arrived [at the DOJ] was that General Flynn had lied to the vice president and FBI agents, and that — I believe — was the primary issue that was under investigation at the time.

[image via C-Span screengrab]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.