Rosenstein says public should trust Barr on Mueller report

Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinWhy the presumption of innocence doesn't apply to Trump McCabe sues FBI, DOJ, blames Trump for his firing Rosenstein: Trump should focus on preventing people from 'becoming violent white supremacists' MORE said Monday that Attorney General William Barr would make the “right decision” on releasing findings from special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTrump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony Kellyanne Conway: 'I'd like to know' if Mueller read his own report MORE’s investigation into Russian election interference.

“I think Attorney General Barr is going to make the right decision,” Rosenstein said when asked about Mueller’s final report during an appearance at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

“We can trust him to do that. He has a lot of experience with this,” Rosenstein said, noting that Barr appointed special counsels during his first stint as attorney general, in the George H.W. Bush administration. “I think we can count on him to do the right thing.”

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Barr, who was confirmed as President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump watching 'very closely' as Portland braces for dueling protests WaPo calls Trump admin 'another threat' to endangered species Are Democrats turning Trump-like? MORE’s second attorney general earlier this month, faced questions from lawmakers during his confirmation process about whether he would release Mueller’s findings to Congress and the public at the investigation’s conclusion.

Barr said he would release as much publicly as possible in accordance with the law, but he was careful not to commit to releasing Mueller’s final report in its entirety, a detail that rankled Democrats.

Rosenstein, who first appointed Mueller as special counsel and oversaw the investigation for well upward of a year, was asked by moderator Suzanne Spaulding on Monday to explain what the Justice Department’s process is in terms of handling the end of Mueller’s investigation and his final report.

Rosenstein declined to directly answer the question, but asserted that the 1999 regulations governing Mueller’s appointment were put together “in a very thoughtful way.” He noted that the regulations state that the special counsel is accountable to the Department of Justice but also offer the special counsel the independence and authority of a U.S. attorney. 

“We’re going to comply with those rules,” Rosenstein said. “The special counsel is a subordinate employee who reports to the attorney general or the acting attorney general.”

He went on to argue that the public should be “confident” the investigation will be conducted independently.

“I can’t answer your question because that’s going to be a question that the attorney general makes as to what to do with whatever information is provided to him,” Rosenstein told Spaulding. “But I can tell you that I think the regulation was appropriately written to ensure that we can be confident that the investigation was conducted in an independent way and that, if that special prosecutor believed something should be done and we prohibited him from doing it, there would be a report about that to Congress at the end.”

There has been massive speculation in recent days that Mueller is close to wrapping up his investigation, which includes examining potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Moscow, as well as obstruction of justice. However, a Justice Department official said Friday that Mueller’s final report — which the regulations mandate be delivered confidentially to the attorney general — would not be given to the Justice Department this week. 

Over the course of two years, Mueller has unveiled charges against more than two dozen Russians and six Trump associates. But the special counsel has not alleged any conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin's efforts to interfere in the 2016 election.

Some critics of Trump have expressed fears that the president, who denies his campaign colluded with Russia and regularly derides the investigation as a “witch hunt,” could look to suppress Mueller’s findings from the public.

Rosenstein, who declined to comment on Mueller’s investigation directly because it is ongoing, spoke at length on the rule of law and how the United States compares to other nations at the event in D.C. Monday. 

At one point during the discussion period, he acknowledged that it is a “politically challenging” era for the Justice Department but expressed confidence that the American public would look back on today’s department with a sense of pride. He also credited Trump with making esteemed appointments to the agency. 

“The principles of the department are being enforced,” Rosenstein said. “We are taking appropriate action and we are promoting the rule of law.”

Rosenstein, who is expected to soon leave his post after roughly two years as the No. 2 law enforcement official, also addressed the issue of transparency and said there are reasons for the government to keep information from the public despite a “knee jerk” reaction in society toward disclosure.

“There are a lot of reasons not to be transparent in what we do in government,” Rosenstein said, adding that it could be “really misleading” if the government is overly transparent about the information it collects because it is not always accurate. 

“If we aren’t prepared to prove our case beyond a reasonable doubt in court, then we have no business making allegations against American citizens,” Rosenstein said, noting he was not commenting on a particular case.