“Conversation with the Dean” Tackles Impeachment, Treason and the Mueller Investigation

Former U.S. Attorney and Senior FBI Official Chuck Rosenberg offers his views based on decades of experience in federal law enforcement

January 24, 2019

Chuck Rosenberg, left, with Dean David Weil

By Karen Shih

Impeachment, treason and the complexities of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation dominated the conversation as Chuck Rosenberg, former senior FBI official, U.S. Attorney and DEA administrator, visited the Heller School for a “Conversation with the Dean” on January 23.

Dean David Weil started off the discussion by delving into Rosenberg’s long career in federal law, including firsthand experience working for Mueller, former FBI Director James Comey and Bill Barr, the nominee for U.S. Attorney General.

Rosenberg said he had great respect for all three men and emphasized the non-political nature of his work in the Department of Justice.

“The job was always to follow the facts and enforce the law and do your best to administer justice,” said Rosenberg, who served both Democratic and Republican presidents. “I never knew and never discussed with my colleagues their politics.”

He called the indictments that have come out of the Mueller investigation “astonishing” in their complexity, highlighting the one against Russian GRU spies. As Mueller’s work continues, more legal questions will emerge that will have to be decided by a court, since they haven’t been adjudicated before, Rosenberg said. “Can a president fire the director of the FBI? Absolutely, there’s no question about it. But can he do it do it for corrupt purposes?... There’s still a line that any president cannot cross.”

Audience members, who included board members, students, faculty, staff and alumni, had the opportunity to ask questions

Rosenberg, who’s now an MSNBC legal analyst, cautioned the audience not to be like “5-year-olds playing soccer,” jumping from news story to news story about the investigation. One example: the recent BuzzFeed News piece about President Donald Trump directing his lawyer, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress, which has been disputed by Mueller in a public statement.

“We should wait for Mueller to talk in court,” Rosenberg said.  

He didn’t offer a conclusive opinion on whether or not he thought President Trump would be impeached. Instead, he clarified that Trump couldn’t be charged with treason for helping President Vladimir Putin, since the U.S. hasn’t declared war on Russia, though he could be charged as an “agent of a foreign power.”

“In the end, impeachment is really a political determination,” Rosenberg said. “One of the things I loved about being a federal prosecutor and being in a court of law was having a set of rules and a judge and a jury. There’s an objective set of criteria… But that’s not the case in Congress. There are political imperatives at work.”

Rosenberg took questions from the audience, which included ones about Trump’s preference for acting heads of agencies, the legal definition of intent and the seemingly slow pace of the investigation. 

“The Mueller team is moving at the speed of light,” said Rosenberg, given that the investigation requires interviews and documents from myriad sources around the world. “Having worked for him, I can tell you unreservedly, I’ve never seen a human being work harder than Bob Mueller.”

“Try to be patient,” he urged the audience, noting that even an investigation of healthcare fraud at a local hospital could take four years. “He has to get it right. There’s no room for error.”

Watch a full video of the event below. 

Rosenberg spoke in front of a packed house at Heller