No role for politics in response to foreign threats: Rosenstein
Written by Louis Milman on July 20, 2018
(WASHINGTON) — The Justice Department official overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe vowed on Thursday that politics “must play no role” in U.S. government efforts to stop foreign attacks and influence campaigns, but he also insisted that politics must play no role in how individual Americans assess and respond to those threats.
“We must address foreign national security threats patriotically as Americans, and not politically as Republicans and Democrats,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said at the annual Aspen Security Forum.
Rosenstein’s comments come as President Donald Trump and many Republicans dismiss Mueller’s probe as a “witch hunt” and hammer the FBI over anti-Trump sentiments captured in thousands of text messages sent between a then-FBI attorney and a senior agent who briefly worked on the probe.
“Heated debates and passionate disagreements about public policy and political leadership are essential to democracy,” but “foreign governments should not be secret participants, covertly spreading propaganda and fanning the flames of division,” Rosenstein said.
“I want to emphasize that covert propaganda disseminated by foreign adversaries is fundamentally different from domestic partisan wrangling,” and Americans must resolve their disagreements “at the ballot box,” Rosenstein noted.
Meanwhile, the Justice Department says it will do what it can through investigations and prosecutions to fight foreign influence operations and other threats.
“It is not the government’s job to determine whether political opinions are right or wrong, but that does not leave the government powerless to address the national security danger when a foreign government engages in covert information warfare,” according to Rosenstein.
Rosenstein said “in all cases” opened by the Justice Department and FBI, “partisan political considerations must play no role.”
“We cannot seek to benefit or harm any lawful group, individual or organization,” he said. “Our government does not take any official position on what people should believe or how they should vote, but it can and should protect them from fraud and deception perpetrated by foreign agents.”
As part of its effort to protect Americans from foreign influence, the Justice Department will seek to publicly expose “the nature” of foreign operations even more than it has in recent years, the department announced Thursday.
“Knowledge is power,” Rosenstein said alongside the announcement.
Rosenstein did not take questions while at the forum in Aspen, Colorado. But at the forum on Wednesday, FBI director Christopher Wray was asked to respond to Trump’s attacks on Mueller’s probe.
“I do not believe special counsel Mueller is on a witch hunt.” Wray said, describing Mueller as a “straight-shooter” who’s running a “professional” investigation.
Mueller’s office has already charged more than two dozen Russian hackers and intelligence operatives for allegedly meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign. Several Americans associated with Trump’s presidential campaign have been charged for allegedly lying to the FBI or financial-related crimes.
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