The flagging U.S. probes into the Trump administration’s ties to the Kremlin are about to get an injection of fresh blood.
Senate Intelligence Committee Democrats have tapped April Doss, a former NSA lawyer, to join the committee’s investigation of Russia’s intervention in the U.S. election. Meanwhile, Rod Rosenstein, who was confirmed as deputy attorney general on Tuesday, will take the reins of the Justice Department’s sprawling probe into Trump’s Russia ties and Kremlin meddling.
The two veterans are poised to bring legal and intelligence heft to probes that have been hobbled by a shortage of technical expertise and a lack of political cover at the Justice Department.
Doss brings a relevant set of skills from her time at the NSA where “a lot of the lawyering happens at the intersection of legal authorities and technological capability,” Carrie Cordero, a former DOJ national security official, said.
Rosenstein, who was the top federal prosecutor in Maryland, easily won Senate confirmation on Tuesday. He comes to Justice Department headquarters after an intense clash between his Senate-confirmed predecessor, Sally Yates, and the Trump White House. President Donald Trump fired Yates after she refused to defend his ban on travel to the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries. Meanwhile, Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the probe after he neglected to disclose his meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak during his confirmation hearing.
Critics of the Trump administration will be watching closely to see whether Rosenstein is able to maintain his political independence. At his confirmation hearing, Democrats repeatedly pressed the prosecutor to appoint a special counsel to oversee the Russia inquiry. Rosenstein refused but pledged to supervise the probe the way “I would handle any investigation.”
“I can certainly assure you, if it’s America against Russia, or America against any other country, I think everyone in this room knows which side I’m on,” he said.
Rosenstein, who will be heading up one of the most politically charged probes in the bureau’s history, will be responsible for steering the investigation’s path and for approving its most sensitive wiretap applications. He earned praise for his tenure as U.S. attorney for Maryland, which spanned the Bush and Obama administrations. He is widely credited with overhauling an office in disarray when he was appointed to lead it in 2005.
As a U.S. attorney, Rosenstein has led investigations with serious national security implications and the work of the NSA. His office is currently prosecuting the former NSA contractor Hal Martin for allegedly spiriting a huge trove of classified information out of intelligence community facilities and storing them in his home.
Doss, who will serve as special counsel to the Senate investigation, spent 13 years at the NSA where she specialized in intelligence law before joining the law firm Saul Ewing less…