One of the most frequent questions about Asst. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein circles around his decision to reauthorize the FISA Title-1 surveillance warrant used against Carter Page and by extension the Trump campaign. In this outline we take the timeline and overlay new information that helps to understand what was going on:
- Why did Rosenstein renew that sketchy FISA warrant July 18th, 2017?
- Why did Mueller request clarity two weeks later on August 2nd, 2017?
To understand the dynamic we must remind ourselves what was known at key dates in the investigative decision-making. None of this is intended to exhibit an opinion toward the motives of those making decisions; however, in hindsight we can clearly outline what was known and what was not known at the time these decisions were made.
Recently we have gained clarity toward the scope of investigative evidence held by Robert Mueller. Thanks to some debriefing interviews by ‘witness’ Michael Caputo we more thoroughly understand what evidence is held by Robert Mueller; and, more importantly the scale of that evidence leads to a reasonable conclusion about how it was obtained.
It appears Special Counsel Robert Mueller began his investigation of Russian interference and the possibility of Trump campaign collusion, right where the FBI counterintelligence operation left-off. This is additionally supported by reviewing the original investigative instructions as outlined by Rod Rosenstein the day Robert Mueller was appointed as Special Counsel:
The key phrase here is: “to serve as Special Counsel to oversee the previously-confirmed FBI investigation of Russian government efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election”… Here, Rosenstein is clearly instructing Robert Mueller to pick-up the former Counterintelligence Investigation previously headed by FBI Asst. Director of Counterintelligence Bill Priestap, and his #2 FBI Agent Peter Strzok.
So there we have the three areas of direct authority: ¹Links or coordination between the Russian Government and the campaign of Donald Trump. ²Matters that may arise from the investigation of the Russian government and the campaign of Donald Trump. And ³other matters within the scope of 28 C.F.R. § 600.4(a). [<- ie. ‘Jurisdiction‘]
So there’s the instructions to Robert Mueller and his team on May 17th, 2017.
As an outcome of this May 2017 reassignment of investigative authority, Mueller now takes over from Bill Priestap. The Special Counsel takes over the investigation from the FBI.
The lead FBI investigator, Peter Strzok, is in immediate communication with Robert Mueller’s point person Aaron Zelby via email; and FBI agent Peter Strzok eventually finds himself part of the Special Counsel investigative team.
It is important to remember, at the time all of this is taking place, no-one inside the DOJ Inspector General’s office (DOJ-OIG) or the Internal Investigation Division (INSD) of the FBI is aware of the evidence that FBI Agent Peter Strzok and DOJ assigned Special Counsel Lisa Page have been part of a group shaping a months long “insurance policy” against the candidacy and presidency of Donald Trump. Nor is anyone aware that Andrew McCabe, Michael Kortan, Lisa Page and Peter Strzok are leaking frequently to their media allies. Those discoveries come later.
In May 2017 Robert Mueller and Rod Rosenstein would not know the history of what activity was happening inside the FBI “small group” scheme.
It was ten months before the Special Counsel was assigned when Page and Strzok were messaging each-other about the “insurance policy” discussed in Andrew McCabe’s office. The Page/Strzok messages were on August 18th, 2016.
That “insurance policy” is widely believed to have been short-hand to describe an effort to conduct surveillance on candidate Trump, which could later ensure a strategic plan to disrupt and possibly eliminate Trump if elected, via the Russia collusion narrative.
That plan needed legal FBI authority to conduct surveillance – which could be used to weaponize intelligence. That plan culminated in the Carter Page Title-1 FISA warrant as the deployment mechanism, on October 21st, 2016.
Apparently, without knowledge of the underlying sketchy context inside the application (Steele Dossier) of the FISA Title-1 surveillance warrant, on July 18th, 2017, Asst. AG Rod Rosenstein renews the FISA warrant as the 3rd continuance of an investigative tool. This time to be used by Robert Mueller. And with this intensely broad and intrusive surveillance authority Mueller’s investigative unit now has the legal authority to capture the records of everyone within two-hops of Carter Page. That includes the entire Trump campaign and likely almost all of the Trump administration.
This explains why Michael Caputo said: “Mueller has everything, on every person related to the campaign.” Including calls, emails, text messages, the works.
However, between the start of the Mueller special counsel (May) and the date of the FISA renewal (July 18), OIG and INSD investigators began to discover issues as a result of an internal leak investigation. [OIG Report on McCabe] Questions to FBI Communication Director Mike Kortan, Andrew McCabe, and his lawyer Lisa Page resulted in contradictions within their statements.
- •May 2017 McCabe denies leaking for WSJ story (to FBI).
- •July 2017 McCabe denies again (to IG Horowitz).
- •July 20th, 2017 Horowitz gets Strzok/Page text messages. Proving McCabe constructed the WSJ story and lied to FBI investigators and Inspector General.
Immediately after Rosenstein reauthorizes the FISA warrant (7/18/17), Lisa Page turns over text messages to support her version of events. OIG and INSD investigators get the Page/Strzok messages on July 20th, 2017:
[Congressional Report – Page 18, Item #3, second paragraph] “The DOJ OIG obtained the initial batch of text messages on July 20, 2017.”
Now things get interesting.
As a result of those messages delivered July 20, soon thereafter the IG informs Robert Mueller there are big issues with Lisa Page and Peter Strzok who were/are both on the special counsel team. Obviously INSD and OIG investigators are pouring through the messages.
As a result of that IG notification Robert Mueller removes Peter Strzok. It is reported that Lisa Page left a few weeks before. In “Appendix C” we discover the final text from Lisa Page to Strzok took place on June 25th, 2017: “Don’t ever text me again“. This final message follows Strzok’s heavily redacted text message June 22nd about not being able to reach out. So we can assume, with reasonable accuracy, Lisa Page was a non-factor in the Robert Mueller investigation around late June and Peter Strzok is removed sometime shortly after Mueller gets the details about their compromise late July/beginning August.
It is likely Rod Rosenstein is informed of the same issue(s) soon after he reauthorized the FISA warrant, July 18th. Prior to that initial IG notification; and prior to OIG and FBI Inspection Division review of the scale of the issue; no-one outside the “small group” new about the scheme, or the “insurance policy”.
However, at the beginning of August 2017 both Rosenstein and Mueller now have some idea something is seriously wrong within the prior corrupt FBI investigation that was using the FISA Title-1 surveillance warrant Rosenstein just renewed two weeks earlier.
So what happened next?
Well look at the date of this “newest special counsel instruction“:
In hindsight it is now clear why Robert Mueller would be reaching out to Rod Rosenstein and telling the Asst. Attorney General that, against the revelations of what the prior FBI investigative unit was doing, Rosenstein better provide Mueller increased clarity as to the specifics of what he is authorized to review.
At the very end of July, 2017, the released investigative evidence is clear – both Rod Rosenstein and Robert Mueller become aware of the initial issues with Page and Strzok, and likely how those issues were quickly escalating as the IG and INSD discover through reviews of evidence and in-person interviews the outline of a broad conspiracy.
It’s no surprise that Mueller takes pause and requests clear instructions in writing; but we still don’t know what’s behind that massive redaction.
SUMMARY: An honest review of the timeline shows the third FISA renewal happened right before Rosenstein and Mueller became aware of the first signs of the corruption. Additionally, a clear hindsight review of the content within the application, vis-a-vis the fraudulent use of the Clinton-Steele dossier, shows a clear reason why it was never reauthorized again; and easily why Carter Page was never charged with anything.
Once the IG and INSD investigators had the time to go deeper into the internal investigation, this is around the point when Utah federal prosecutor John Huber is brought into the findings surfacing within the IG and INSD investigation. Huber’s task likely to review all of the discoveries for potentially criminal conduct, grand jury evidence and possible criminal indictments if warranted.
However, all of that said, none of this explains why Asst. AG Rosenstein did not shut down the special counsel investigation in/around Sept. or October 2017 as soon as the scale of internal corruption was known. Unless the extraneous Flynn, Papadopolous and Manafort findings, some of which likely stemmed from the use of the FISA extensions in the period from May through October, became the agenda for continuance.
Here’s where everyone wants to know motive(s) behind Mueller, Rosenstein and the corresponding investigators. Truthfully, this is also where an argument can be made in both directions.
So, you decide for yourself.