FILE PHOTO: U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein speaks at the Los Angeles Crimefighters Leadership Conference in Los Angeles, California, U.S., February 7, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told a Senate panel on Wednesday that he was unaware of any factual problems with warrant applications he approved for FBI surveillance of President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign officials.
His remarks were likely to be welcomed by Trump and his Republican allies, who claim the president and his officials were treated unfairly by officials involved in the probe, including former FBI Director James Comey and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
Rosenstein, testifying about his role in the FBI investigation code-named “Crossfire Hurricane,” which Trump has condemned as a conspiracy, said problems with warrant applications to surveil campaign officials including Carter Page were not brought to light until last December by the Justice Department’s inspector general.
“Every application that I approved appeared to be justified based on the facts it alleged, and the FBI was supposed to be following protocols to ensure that every fact was verified,” Rosenstein told the Senate Judiciary Committee in written testimony.
The committee, chaired by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally, is investigating the Crossfire Hurricane probe, which preceded former U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s 22-month investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign. Rosenstein appointed Mueller in 2017.
Democrats have raised concerns Republicans could use the Senate probe to attack Trump’s rival Joe Biden, the presumptive 2020 Democratic nominee in the Nov. 3 presidential election. Biden was vice president in 2016 when the FBI opened the probe.
The Justice Department inspector general found numerous errors, including mistakes in seeking approval to surveil Page. But the IG report found no political bias.
Mueller concluded that Russia interfered in the election to boost Trump’s candidacy but that the evidence did not establish a conspiracy between the campaign and Moscow.
Reporting by David Morgan, Sarah N. Lynch and Mark Hosenball; editing by Grant McCool