Rosenstein plays piñata as GOP starts probe of Russia investigation

ajc.com

With President Donald Trump demanding answers on what he's coined "Obamagate," the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday began hearings into the genesis of the Russia investigation, as the first witness told Senators he had seen no evidence of wrongdoing by former President Barack Obama.

"Now we're going to look at the Mueller investigation," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) as he opened the hearings. "And we're going to look hard."

"We're going to get to the bottom of this," Graham declared.

The first witness was former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who defended his decision to name former FBI Director Robert Mueller to take charge of the Russia probe, which was focusing on Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

"Russians influenced crimes in seeking to influence the election," Rosenstein said. "And Americans did not conspire with them."

Asked at one point about 'Obamagate' - the President's catch-all moniker for the Russia investigation, Rosenstein said he had not seen any evidence of wrongdoing by the former President.

"I have not," Rosenstein told Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), though Rosenstein made clear he was uncomfortable with reports of FBI errors uncovered by an internal watchdog at the Justice Department.

"I do not consider the investigation to be corrupt, but I certainly understand the President's frustration, given the outcome," Rosenstein said at another point.

GOP Senators basically turned Rosenstein into a pinata in the witness chair, using their questioning time to denounce the investigation, raising questions about errors in the process of obtaining a FISA warrant on one-time Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page, and demanding to know why Rosenstein wasn't to blame.

"I'm accountable," Rosenstein said during a verbal tug of war with Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO).

Democrats did all they could to downplay the hearing, saying it was just a political effort by the GOP, as Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) compared it to watching old baseball games on TV during the current Coronavirus pandemic.

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