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Judicial Watch outs DOJ 'Leak then deny' culture

By David Singer - posted Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Remarkable investigative reporting by Judicial Watch demonstrates how leaks from the Department of Justice (DOJ) are made to journalists to damage President Trump – and then are officially denied by the DOJ as having any veracity.

An article in the New York Times on 21 September 2018 had alleged:

"The deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, suggested last year that he secretly record President Trump in the White House to expose the chaos consuming the administration, and he discussed recruiting cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Mr. Trump from office for being unfit.


Mr. Rosenstein made these suggestions in the spring of 2017 when Mr. Trump's firing of James B. Comey as F.B.I. director plunged the White House into turmoil. Over the ensuing days, the president divulged classified intelligence to Russians in the Oval Office, and revelations emerged that Mr. Trump had asked Mr. Comey to pledge loyalty and end an investigation into a senior aide.

Mr. Rosenstein was just two weeks into his job. He had begun overseeing the Russia investigation and played a key role in the president's dismissal of Mr. Comey by writing a memo critical of his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. But Mr. Rosenstein was caught off guard when Mr. Trump cited the memo in the firing, and he began telling people that he feared he had been used.

Mr. Rosenstein made the remarks about secretly recording Mr. Trump and about the 25th Amendment in meetings and conversations with other Justice Department and F.B.I. officials. Several people described the episodes in interviews over the past several months, insisting on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. The people were briefed either on the events themselves or on memos written by F.B.I. officials, including Andrew G. McCabe, then the acting bureau director, that documented Mr. Rosenstein's actions and comments.

None of Mr. Rosenstein's proposals apparently came to fruition.

14 pages of DOJ records - only obtained after Freedom of Information court proceedings had been successfully prosecuted by Judicial Watch - show what actually occurred before and after the article's publication.

On 20 September 2018 at 3.47.54 pm the New York Times reporters - Adam Goldman and Mike Schmidt – had contacted the DOJ by email - seeking a response to allegations that Rosenstein had been involved in one meeting on a specified date and three conversations on two identified and one approximate date.

By 10.44 pm the DOJ had sent Rosenstein's response to the reporters - which was published in full in their article the next day:

The New York Times's story is inaccurate and factually incorrect. I will not further comment on a story based on anonymous sources who are obviously biased against the department and are advancing their own personal agenda. But let me be clear about this: Based on my personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment.

Following the article's publication - Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post – contacted Assistant US Attorney (DOJ/NSD) Harvey Eisenberg inquiring about the article published in the New York Times.


Eisenberg emailed Rosenstein at 2.21 pm on 21 September to give him "a heads up that she's calling around".

Rosenstein responded at 2.24 pm:

Thanks! Hopefully we are being successful, and the reporters are having difficulty finding anybody to comment about things. [Remainder of email redacted.]

The New York Times had used anonymous DOJ sources for its article - whilst the DOJ protected their identities and seemingly took no disciplinary - or possibly criminal - action against them.

Attorney General Barr must end this pernicious DOJ "leak then deny" practice and prosecute those involved.

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About the Author

David Singer is an Australian Lawyer, a Foundation Member of the International Analyst Network and Convenor of Jordan is Palestine International - an organisation calling for sovereignty of the West Bank and Gaza to be allocated between Israel and Jordan as the two successor States to the Mandate for Palestine. Previous articles written by him can be found at

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