FBI DISALLOWS RESPONSE AS TO “OTHER ACTION ITEMS”
by Sharon Rondeau
During the October 18, 2018 transcribed interview, four Republican congressmen questioned Baker about the meetings which allegedly took place among Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, FBI Counsel Lisa Page, Baker, perhaps then-Assistant Director of Counterintelligence Bill Priestap, and a national-security FBI official identified as “Colonel Gattis.”
During Baker’s first interview of October 3, 2018, two Republicans were joined by one Democrat congressman, with respective counsels also posing questions for each side.
According to Baker, he was not privy to an initial meeting allegedly among McCabe’s, Page, Rosenstein and perhaps others, but rather, was told about it one day later. From there, Baker testified, additional conversations ensued during which the idea was floated of Rosenstein “wearing a wire” to record conversations with Trump in the Oval Office in an apparent attempt to prove his firing of Comey was an attempt to “obstruct justice.”
On September 21, 2018, The New York Times reported that Rosenstein had allegedly proposed the idea of wearing a hidden recording device when he was to engage in conversations with Trump. A spokesman for Rosenstein denied the report, then stated that Rosenstein might have been “joking” when he made the suggestion. However, under questioning from Reps. Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan on October 18, Baker said he interpreted McCabe and Page’s accounts of the initial discussion with Rosenstein seriously “because my assessment was that they took it seriously” (p. 7).
Baker said the conversations stemmed from the group’s dismay at Comey’s firing and its sense that the FBI was at least temporarily adrift without his leadership. The idea of Rosenstein “wearing a wire,” Baker said, was ultimately dismissed because it “did not make any sense from an investigative or operational perspective and really shouldn’t be pursued further.”
After Meadows asked Baker to “bring me inside the room” (p. 10) in an attempt to gain an idea of the breadth and depth of the discussions in McCabe’s office, Baker described “a list of things” the group was considering “to try to figure out what to do” (p. 11). He described McCabe as “stunned” and “surprised” at Rosenstein’s alleged suggestion to secretly record Trump. At the bottom of the page, in using the pronoun “we,” Baker extended those reactions to the group, adding, “I don’t think people laughed it off as a joke. It wasn’t like that, but it was an idea that just did not make a lot of sense, and operationally to try to pull this off, how are you going to do this? It just — I’ll say that it seemed crazy…”
On page 12, Meadows asked for “one last followup” [sic] with, “So you say that this was one of several things that the team discussed in the aftermath of James Comey’s firing. Discussed to do what? I guess my question is, was there the feeling that the President needed to be removed from office? I mean, what were the other things? If this is a list, you know, in a litany of long items that you discussed in terms of action items, what were the other action items?”
At that point, Baker asked the unnamed FBI counsel present for guidance as to how to respond. “May we confer with the witness?” The FBI counsel asked.
After the transcriptionist noted a “Discussion off the record,” the FBI counsel stated, “Congressman Meadows, at this time, we’ll instruct the witness not to answer. I anticipate that you will ask us to seek clarity from our chain of command in reference to this question.”
With Baker having established during his first interview that “obstruction of justice” (p. 134 of Part 1 transcript) was a case McCabe and the others considered making against Trump in response to his firing of Comey, Meadows then said (bottom of p. 12):
Baker had already indicated in his first interview that the group strongly advocated for Rosenstein’s hiring of a Special Counsel to probe Comey’s firing (p. 145). The task fell to Rosenstein because then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions had recused himself from all matters pertaining to “Russia” given that he was a Trump-campaign advisor and had met with a number of Russian officials during the 2016 campaign cycle as a sitting U.S. Senator.
The FBI had already been conducting a counterintelligence probe into the Trump campaign which the agency claims was opened on July 31, 2016. However, former House Intelligence Committee chairman and current ranking member Devin Nunes has claimed on many occasions that the investigation actually began considerably earlier, in “late 2015/early 2016.”
On May 17, eight days after Comey was terminated, Rosenstein hired former FBI Director and Comey predecessor Robert Mueller to serve as “Special Counsel” ostensibly to continue the FBI’s probe into allegations that someone within the Trump campaign had improperly coordinated with Russian operatives or the Kremlin to tip the election in Trump’s favor.
Throughout Mueller’s 22-month probe, said to cost taxpayers $30 million or more, Trump tweeted and remarked that there was “no collusion” between his campaign and Russians and that the entire investigation amounted to nothing more than a “witch hunt.”
Following the delivery of Mueller’s report to the Justice Department on March 22, some have opined that from the outset or several months later, Mueller was aware that no “collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives took place and that consequently, Mueller’s work focused almost exclusively on the “obstruction of justice” allegation which appears to have been put forth by the FBI.
On that issue, Mueller reportedly wrote that his findings neither supported nor exonerated Trump of “obstruction,” leaving the decision to current Attorney General William Barr in consultation with Rosenstein. In a March 24 letter to congressional leaders, Barr wrote that Rosenstein and he agreed that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Trump on an obstruction of justice charge.
According to multiple mainstream reports earlier this week, Barr is expected to release a redacted version of the Mueller report to the public and Congress on Thursday. Barr, Rosenstein and Mueller have reportedly worked together over the past several weeks to decide on material requiring redaction and why, with explanations reportedly to be supplied in a color-coded manner for the public’s understanding.