Deputy AG also signed off on improper FISA surveillance of Carter Page
On Tuesday morning Trump made it quite clear that he was furious with the FBI and Robert Mueller for raiding both the office and house of Michael Cohen, in the process breaching the attorney-client privilege between the president and his personal lawyer.
As the NYT further noted, Trump’s advisers “spent the last 24 hours trying to convince the president not to make an impulsive decision that could put the president in more legal jeopardy and ignite a controversy that could consume his presidency.” To be sure, Trump began Tuesday morning with a pair of angry tweets, calling the raids “A TOTAL WITCH HUNT!” and venting that “attorney–client privilege is dead!”
And now, it appears that Trump can split his anger equally between Mueller and his own handpicked deputy AG, because according to the NYT citing three government officials, Rod J. Rosenstein personally signed off on Monday’s F.B.I. decision to raid the office of Michael D. Cohen.
The revelation comes at a sensitive time for Trump’s mental state, just hours after he reportedly engaged in an angry public tirade Monday evening that continued in private at the White House “as the president fumed about whether he should fire Mr. Rosenstein” according to the NYT:
“The episode has deeply unsettled White House aides, Justice Department officials and lawmakers from both parties, who believe the president may use it as a pretext to purge the team leading the investigation into Russia meddling in the 2016 election.”
There is another major concern for Trump: as the NYT adds, “Rosenstein’s personal involvement in the decision signals that the evidence seen by law enforcement officials was significant enough to persuade the Justice Department’s second-in-command that such an aggressive move was necessary.”
The revelation will not help the growing animosity between the president and the DOJ’s 2nd in command:
“Trump has long been mistrustful of Mr. Rosenstein, the Justice Department’s No. 2 official, who appointed the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and now oversees his investigation into Mr. Trump’s campaign and possible obstruction of justice by the president.”
In his remarks Monday night, the NYT notes that the president lashed out at Mr. Rosenstein for having “signed a FISA warrant,” apparently a reference to the role Mr. Rosenstein played in authorizing the wiretap of a Trump associate in the Russia inquiry.
Also, as previously reported, Rosenstein was this close: last summer Trump considered firing Rosenstein, instead, he ordered Mr. Mueller to be fired, then backed down after the White House counsel refused to carry out the order.
Trump is now again telling associates that he is frustrated with Rosenstein, according to one official familiar with the conversations.
Still, while Rosenstein must sign off on all moves that Mr. Mueller makes, that is not necessarily the case for searches that are carried out by other federal law enforcement offices. DOJ regulations require prosecutors to consult with senior criminal prosecutors in Washington – but not necessarily the deputy attorney general – before conducting a search of a lawyer’s files.
Meanwhile, as the NYT points out, Rosenstein’s involvement, including that of top New York prosecutors in the Cohen office raid, “makes it harder for Trump to argue that his legal problems are the result of a witch hunt led by Mueller.” In addition to Mr. Rosenstein, all of the top law enforcement officials involved in the raid are Republicans: Mr. Mueller, Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. Director, and Geoffrey Berman, the interim United States attorney in New York.
Separately, as ABC adds, the FBI raid was executed by the US Attorney Office in NY: the man who runs that office, Geoffrey Berman, was appointed by Trump, although as ABC also adds, Berman reportedly recused himself from the Cohen probe, yet another recusal that is certain to infuriate Trump.