Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein claimed responsibility for the release of text messages between then-FBI attorney Lisa Page and then-FBI official Peter Strzok.
Emails released in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) revealed the highly unusual release by Sarah Isgur Flores, who at the time was the spokesperson for Trump's Department of Justice (she is now overseeing CNN's 2020 election coverage).
Flores instructed reporters to not cite the release of the documents to the Depart of Justice.
Both Strzok and Page have filed separate lawsuits against DOJ for the release of the text messages. In a legal brief filed late Friday, Rosenstein filed an affidavit claiming responsibility for the release.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed the text messages are proof of a deep state conspiracy against his 2016 campaign -- even though he won.
At a campaign rally, Trump made up a fictionalized transcript of the messages, which he acted out on stage while simulating a sex act.
My video has almost 9,000 views. I was there when Trump had simulated sex mocking Lisa Page, it was horrifying but… https://t.co/lP4uJD63xO— Sandi Bachom (@Sandi Bachom)1575741083.0
Legal experts doubted Rosenstein's rationalization for the release.
Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti, who is a CNN legal analyst, didn't think Rosenstein's defense would hold up.
"Rosenstein claims that he made the decision to release the Strzok-Page texts in part because it would be helpful to Strzok and Page for him to do so. This rationale doesn’t seem like it will hold up when he's questioned under oath," Mariotti said.
He wasn't the only person focused on Rosenstein's anticipated testimony under oath.
"All I can say is this: I very much look forward to Rod’s deposition," Lisa Page herself wrote.
Walter Shaub, the former head of the office of government ethics, said the admission was proof "Rosenstein was complicit in the Trump administration's abuses of power."
"It's a disturbing illustration of the ways Rosenstein and, later, Barr have politicized the Justice Department—an agency whose very name promises impartiality. The dangers of politicizing the agency administering the criminal apparatus of the state cannot be overstated," he warned.
"Rosenstein suffered from the same flaw of vanity that plagued Comey, only Rosenstein was a weak man controlled by the fear he displayed when he publicly groveled not to be fired by tweet," Shaub added.
All I can say is this: I very much look forward to Rod’s deposition. https://t.co/so43a38WBh— Lisa Page (@Lisa Page)1579369378.0
Rod Rosenstein should be shunned. He is a pathetic miscreant with no moral core. https://t.co/BPQQOcRW6j— Norman Ornstein (@Norman Ornstein)1579381925.0