On Friday, special counsel Robert Mueller’s office issued a statement saying that “characterization of documents and testimony” in Thursday’s bombshell report from BuzzFeed about President Donald Trump instructing his longtime former personal attorney to lie to Congress were not accurate.
MSNBC host Rachel Maddow had former senior FBI official Chuck Rosenberg on to discuss the development.
Rosenberg said that prosecutors often want to keep part of their case secret as they develop it, and that this may have been what happened here.
“You want to keep some of your powder dry. Laying the predicate, as you said earlier, is precisely I think what the Mueller team is doing here,” he said. “You have them plead to a set of operative facts describing what they did. Because some day down the road, you’re going to use them to help you get others who did the same thing. That’s what I think happened here. But you don’t want to sort of lay all your cards on the table as a prosecutor, because you’re still investigating that thing that conduct, the others who were involved in it.”
By pushing back on BuzzFeed in a nuanced way, Rosenberg said, Mueller seems actually showed that “the core” of the report appears to be correct. In fact, he said, Mueller’s own filings say much the same thing.
“What the Mueller team did made sense to me. And the way they described it really in some ways buttresses the core of the BuzzFeed story,” he said. “Now, obviously the Mueller team is pushing back on aspects of the BuzzFeed story. I think in the main, what you can glean from their December 7 sentencing memorandum, is that the core of BuzzFeed story is accurate… It seems to me that the core of the story is correct and we can determine that from the Mueller team’s own court filing. That’s really the best place to look I think. All the time. For what’s really going on in this case.”
The form that the denial took is important, Rosenberg said.
“It would have been very simple to say the reporting is dead wrong in every respect. They didn’t do that. And I think the emphasis you put on those words, the specific descriptions, the characterizations, sort of is a window into the thinking of the Mueller team,” he said. “There are parts of the reporting that trouble them—I have no idea, Rachel, by the way, why they decided on this occasion to push back on the story. I’m sure there are other stories that got other things wrong.”