Sidney Powell, General Flynn’s lawyer, tweeted on Wednesday, “How can someone swear under penalty of perjury that something which is entirely false is true–when the person hasn’t even read it? Isn’t that perjury itself?”
(This was in reference to Rod Rosenstein’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee that he had “rubberstamped” FISA Court surveillance requests from the FBI senior officials (who he ostensibly outranked).)
Powell’s complaint may only have been rhetorical, and not an indictment, for she has a good sense as to how government bureaucratic organizations are organized. But no matter.
Standing outside the agencies but yet close to them, only as a defense lawyer, she would naturally have insights as to the way government legal agencies are structured (on paper) and how they operate by the natural laws of human conduct that manage most organizations internally. She knows that how one ranks on the organization chart is not necessarily how they rank in close quarter.
I do too.
Of the 15 years I was ever paid a regular paycheck, five were in the US Army as a criminal defense lawyer, and ten were inside a large 60,000 employee, multi-state, Fortune 500 manufacturing company. In both, like Sidney Powell, I watch the moving parts of the operation I was part of, but from outside them. To the extent there was office politics I was never part of them. I was a wallflower in their world even as I could observe all their ritual dances vis a vis one another. For instance, i got to learn that one “CEO”, a three-star general, could like you because you were not afraid of him, while another CEO, an “Organization Man” from that transformative era on the 80s when business went global, hated me for the very same reason, that I wasn’t afraid of him.
I was a gadfly in two very large complex hives an actually had the run of both. In the first, I was chief of Criminal Defense in a major Army Command, but in a law office that was largely about International Law and Administrative Law. I was mostly a wallflower in the Army’s mission, and only an annoyance when I did not take the command’s recommendations to accept a plea bargain on behalf of my client…which was too often it seems. For every time I went my own way my client won. (I tell several interesting stories about those times at VeteransTales.org. especially one case that would cause our Harvard-educated International Law colonel-boss to be relieved and lose his chances for a Star.
(This isn’t germane to Rosenstein and his organization culture, so I won’t bore you, but there were reasons why during the Vietnam War era, Army lawyers were mostly volunteers doing a 4-year stint, while all the other branches were mostly career-officers. It was largely because the Army had the bulk of criminal cases and the need for defense lawyers because of Vietnam and our troop presence in Germany. Although I doubt Pentagon personnel planners had any special sensitivity to the troops who would come under the lamp of the military criminal system, they did know most of those would occur in the Army, since that was where all the draftees were sent. One of the downsides, from the command point of view, was that most Army lawyers had no problem with flipping off the commanding general and the command by defending their client to best of their ability without regard to their annual efficiency report. Since that was not the case with Air Force and Navy?Marines, after a couple of wins where I was supposed to lose, I was requested by Marines, Sailors and Airman from all over the Pacific. Even a deserter in Hawaii.)
In 1879 I joined a Fortune 500 company, only not as an attorney, but as another gadfly, involving myself in several projects surrounding product development (I had other skills), answering to a single senior exec in corporate, and making my office in one of their large factories 100 miles away from the HQ, trekking down there once a week to meet with the CEO and his corporate planners and production staff.
I just took notes but for 10 years I got to watch its “Organization Men” go through their paces without actually being part of it.
Rosenstein, the Speculation
So, with no dog in this fight about Rod Rosenstein, but as that “other guy standing in the corner”, I have some insights into the culture of Rod Rosenstein’s world in the Department of Justice and FBI.
If your theory of the whole Mueller investigation and Russiagate and Rod Rosenstein’s role in it does not include some of these very basic understandings about that culture he was working in, then you need to sit down and recalibrate.
My general view is that Rosenstein is an Alpha legal mind, but probably a Beta player in the game of office politics.
In my view that is a good thing for the Alpha mind is often the anchor of stability in an organization. Rosenstein graduated with honors at Wharton School, BS in Economics, (An Ivy League school and also Trump’s alma mater) and then Harvard Law, again with honors. He was one of those graduates who would have been pursued by the more prestigious law firms, but chose government service instead. That usually indicates a predisposition, Since both he and his sister attended public school, and excelled academically they must have come by values came from home, which was not affluent.
He was an ace DOJ DA in Maryland, both as a prosecutor and overseeing groups of other attorneys and clerks. They prosecuted mostly white-collar crimes. In 2007 G W Bush nominated Rosenstein for the vacant seat on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, but was thumbed out by both Maryland Democrat senators, a perquisite which I hope President Trump and Mitch McConnell have put an end to.
The courts may have been the career path Rod Rosenstein wanted most to pursue, a seat on the federal bench, the fulfillment of a life’s dream. Louis Brandeis, my favorite progressive justice (he was from Kentucky) considered “public service” the bright mind’s highest calling…back when public service didn’t really pay very much.
Rosenstein likely fit that mold.
His testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 3 may have scorched that dream, as I opened with Sidney Powell’s Tweet, above, for he confessed an error in judgment. But what was it, a “moral shortcoming”, only not that he “rubber-stamped” the request, but that he didn’t own up to it right away… or a “shortcoming in fact”, the daily sin of bureaucrats everywhere. (Maybe he even told President Trump and General Barr, and no one knows?)
I can only see two alternating theories of Rosenstein:
One, he, like Obama, had some secret hatred in his life that would cause him to join some plot to oust this president, even though just on the job for a few days. RR did not move into DOJ as Deputy until April 2017, long after the “frame-up” had been set in motion. FISA court requests had been sent to DOJ on Carter Page three or four times before he came on board. I just don’t see Rosenstein sitting around with any of the deep state principals and swapping complaints about the usurper Trump in such a short period.
By “rubberstamping” their FISA requests RR was either 1) signaling a concurrence with their conspiracy, or 2) revealing a typical routine action by a required signatory of a FISA request that had crossed that desk several times before he had ever sat at that desk, “Carter Page requests” were by then routine, having already been signed off by Comey, Yates and Boente, before RR. Enough times that, despite the seriousness of the request, to a bureaucrat, (Yawn) had become routine. Ask Dr Anthony Fauci. The Carter Page FISA Applications are available here on PDF, 412 pgs, approximately 50 pages for each application. Rosenstein wasn’t in his seat until the fifth one.
From the viewpoint of McCabe or Comey, Rosenstein could have been the perfect patsy, “Here Rod, this is a surveillance request on a Trump campaign staffer we’d sent up to the FISA Court several times. Ongoing. Routine.”
That’s my assessment of Rod Rosenstein so far. A patsy. A victim of the routinization of a process that should never be routine, but always is once it is ingested by the Beast.
(If you’d like to comment directly, I’m @BushmillsVassar at Twitter. Just mind their limitations.)