Rosenzweig: Mueller won’t indict sitting President
[14:55:46] BALDWIN: If you’re just joining us, the FBI declares, quote, “grave concerns” about the release of this Republican memo that alleges agents abused their surveillance authority to monitor certain members of the Trump campaign. The Democrats say the memo is an effort to undermine Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the Russia investigation.
But my next guest thinks the president should likely not worry about an indictment from the Russian investigation because there’s no way that Mueller would take that step.
So let’s talk to Paul Rosenzweig, who wrote this great piece for “The Atlantic,” making the case that there will be no indictment.
Paul was the senior counsel to independent counsel, Ken Starr, in the Whitewater investigation of President Clinton.
So, Paul, a pleasure.
You know, you write in your piece, “Color me skeptical.” Why do you think he wouldn’t be indicted?
PAUL ROSENZWEIG, FOUNDER, RED BRANCH CONSULTING & SENIOR FELLOW, R STREET INSTITUTE: The main reason is that the Department of Justice policy has been against the indictment of a president since 1973. The Office of Legal Counsel, which is the Department of Justice’s lawyer, has issued that opinion was issued in ’73 and again in 2000. And Robert Mueller is an employee of the Department of Justice. He has to follow Department of Justice rules and regulations, one of which is: Don’t indict sitting presidents. That’s a pretty good reason. Even if he wanted to.
BALDWIN: Let’s flash forward to the man whose shoulders will be bearing this, and someone you know, Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general. You point out in your piece that it will be up to him to take Mueller’s findings and determine what to do with them. He, along with Christopher Wray, visited the White House Monday night to try to convince the White House not to release this memo. He would be caught in the crosshairs if this memo goes public. Do you think the Republicans, do you think Trump are trying to undermine him publicly before he has big decisions to make down the road? What do you think?
ROSENZWEIG: I think it’s pretty clear, the Department of Justice regulations say that if Mueller can’t indict the president, he’s supposed to file a report with the attorney general — in this case, it’s the acting attorney general, Rod Rosenstein — who gets to decide whether or not the public interest requires that to be made public. That makes the deputy attorney general, Mr. Rosenstein, the central key actor in the drama that is about to unfold. And it seems to me reasonably clear that much of the effort to besmirch his reputation in advance of that decision making is intended to try to color it and push Mr. Rosenstein in a particular direction. I don’t think it will work, but I do think that that’s rather transparently what’s happening.
BALDWIN: Besmirch his reputation. That’s a perfect way to put it.
I don’t know if you heard Adam Schiff here. I want to play this for everyone. This is the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. Here is what he told Axios about Rod Rosenstein.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D), CALIFORNIA: What I’m more worried about at the moment is that he fires Rod Rosenstein, that he knows the blowback that would accompany firing special counsel, so he fires Rod Rosenstein, puts in his own person, who then becomes Bob Mueller’s boss, who can say to Bob Mueller, you can’t look into this or into that, you need to end your investigation here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Paul, I don’t need to list out the number of people the president fired or is reported to have wanted to fire. But if Rod Rosenstein goes — do you think that’s a valid worry, that he would fire him?
ROSENZWEIG: I think it’s a highly valid worry, according to what we’ve been seeing in the press, reports about his dissatisfaction with the deputy attorney general. In my experience, the deputy attorney general is a stand-up guy. He makes mistakes sometimes, like we all do, but always acts in what he thinks is the best for the American people at heart. It is imminently plausible that the president would seek to replace him with somebody who might have President Trump’s best interest at heart instead. And that would be an assault on the rule of law and the idea of impartial adjudication of justice.
BALDWIN: Paul Rosenzweig, thank you.
ROSENZWEIG: Thank you.