Deputy AG: FBI agents have ‘obligation’ to keep memos confidential

Greg Nash

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Wednesday appeared to implicitly criticize former FBI Director James Comey for leaking memos of his conversations with President Trump to the press.

In an interview set to air Wednesday night on Fox News’s “The Story with Martha MacCallum,” Rosenstein refused to answer directly whether Comey did anything wrong, saying he can’t comment on an ongoing investigation.

But the deputy attorney general also said that, as a general rule, people who work at the Department of Justice have an “obligation” to keep their memorandum confidential.

“We take confidentiality seriously, so when we have memoranda about our ongoing matters, we have an obligation to keep that confidential,” Rosenstein says.

{mosads}”So, I would take that that you would not approve of any releasing of memorandum written in an interviewer discussion with the President to the Press?” MacCallum asked.

“As I said, I’m avoiding on commenting on any particular case,” Rosenstein responded. “But as a general position, I think it is quite clear. It’s what we were taught, all of us as prosecutors and agents. So, we have an obligation to keep information confidential.”

Rosenstein authored a scathing memo about Comey’s behavior as FBI director that Trump cited when firing him.

In that memo, Rosenstein rebuked Comey for his handling of the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton‘s private email server, though he did not directly call for Comey’s firing. 

Trump’s decision to dismiss Comey set off a chain of events that led to Rosenstein appointing former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to lead the bureau’s investigation into Russian meddling in the presidential election.

MacCallum questioned whether Mueller might have a conflict of interest, given his long working relationship with Comey.

Rosenstein said that Mueller has “bipartisan” support in his role but added that if conflicts of interest arose, they would be dealt with by the Justice Department.

“I’ve got to explain that I made the decision to appoint Director Mueller based upon his reputation. He had an excellent reputation. Really bipartisan support for his integrity. That’s why I made that decision,” he said.

“But, I can assure you that if there were conflicts that arose, because Director Mueller or anybody employed by Director Mueller, we have a process within the department to take care of that.”

Rosenstein was also asked whether it “bothered” him that some of the prosecutors Mueller hired for his team had in the past donated to the Clinton campaign

The deputy attorney general responded by saying that he hoped the Justice Department would “do the right thing” in the investigation.

“The Department of Justice, we judge by results and so my view about that is, we’ll see if they do the right thing,” Rosenstein said.

In June, Rosenstein testified to senators that he had seen no good cause for Trump to fire Mueller. At the same hearing, Rosenstein pushed back against talk that he would fire Mueller if given an order by Trump.

“I am not going to follow any orders unless I believe those are lawful and appropriate,” he said.

– This story was updated at 4:10 p.m. from a full transcript of the interview.

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