Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, in an exclusive interview with Fox News’ Martha MacCallum, made clear he would not approve leaks like ex-FBI Director James Comey’s release of personal notes on discussions with President Trump.
Rosenstein discussed the Comey controversy and the overall Russia probe led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller during the extensive interview, set to air Wednesday evening on Fox News’ “The Story.”
And he had tough words when asked about Comey’s recent admission that he used a friend at Columbia University to get a memo he penned on a discussion with Trump leaked to The New York Times.
“As a general proposition, you have to understand the Department of Justice. We take confidentiality seriously, so when we have memoranda about our ongoing matters, we have an obligation to keep that confidential,” Rosenstein said.
Asked if he would prohibit releasing memos on a discussion with the president, he said, “As a general position, I think it is quite clear. It's what we were taught, all of us as prosecutors and agents.”
Rosenstein has faced his fair share of criticism over his role in the Comey controversy. His memo laying out the rationale for Comey’s ouster was initially cited as a key factor by the Trump administration, though Trump and his aides have since given varying explanations as to how much of a role the deputy AG’s recommendation played.
Rosenstein later appointed Mueller as special counsel to oversee the probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign and possible coordination with Trump associates.
In his first national interview, Rosenstein stood by his decision to appoint Mueller despite his close relationship with Comey.
“He had an excellent reputation. Really bipartisan support for his integrity. That's why I made that decision,” he said. “… 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 also defended a newly announced Justice Department decision to expand what’s known as civil asset forfeiture – allowing police to seize property of suspects without proving guilt. The move has spurred some criticism from Republican lawmakers.
“In order to seize property, police need probable cause, the same standards that police need to make an arrest,” Rosenstein said. “And when a decision is made to forfeit property federally, we conduct an independent review of the facts and circumstances.”