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Timothy Parlatore: Rosenstein Testimony Highlighted Failure of Leadership

Timothy Parlatore: Rosenstein Testimony Highlighted Failure of Leadership
U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (R) and FBI Director Christopher Wray (L) testify during a House Judiciary Committee hearing June 28, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

By    |   Monday, 02 July 2018 08:53 AM

Rod Rosenstein’s testimony before Congress this week has been analyzed and spun by pundits on all sides, each interpreting the testimony in a way that fits their preferred narrative of the Mueller investigation. However, to any current or former military officer or law enforcement executive, the most striking takeaway from this testimony is how Rod Rosenstein thoroughly demonstrated his abject lack of leadership and fundamental misunderstanding of the responsibilities of command.

When I began my training at the Naval Academy, we were required to learn and memorize a voluminous amount of material. Among these were two distinct, but closely related acronyms, R.H.I.P. and R.H.I.R. They stood for “Rank hath its privileges” and “Rank hath its responsibilities.” It is inescapable that, while there are privileges associated with higher ranks, the level of responsibility also increases exponentially. A commander is responsible for everything that happens under his or her command.

Consider this, Commander Bryce Benson was asleep in his bed at 1:30 a.m., when the USS Fitzgerald collided with a merchant ship, killing seven sailors. Although he was not involved with the navigation of the ship at the time, and was grievously injured himself as a result of the collision, he was fired and charged by the Navy with seven counts of criminally negligent homicide, because he was the ship’s commanding officer and, therefore, responsibility of command ultimately rested with him.

Contrast this with the questioning of Rod Rosenstein by Congressman Jim Jordan. While Congressman Jordan doggedly asked him questions about the responsiveness, conduct, and decision making of the Department of Justice (DOJ), Rosenstein utterly failed to recognize that “you” referred to the Department of Justice, which Rosenstein is leading, and therefore responsible for. Instead, Rosenstein interpreted these questions as a personal attack and completely refused to acknowledge the responsibilities of command.

For example, when asked why the DOJ had not fully complied with subpoenas, Rosenstein claimed that it had. When Congressman Jordan followed up to confront Rosenstein with documents that had been improperly redacted, Rosenstein responded “Now Mr. Jordan, I am the deputy attorney general of the United States. Okay? I am not the person doing the redacting.” Rosenstein absolutely refused to accept any responsibility, even when reminded by Congressman Jordan, “You’re the boss, Mr. Rosenstein.”

A true leader, who appreciates the responsibilities of command, would have responded, “You are correct, Congressman. Those redactions were improperly made and I take full responsibility for this failure. However, I would like to inform you that, upon discovery of this error, we took the following corrective actions to ensure that the individuals involved were identified and that it never happens again…”

While partisans on either side may have celebrated, quoted, linked, and tweeted quotes from either side of the debate, those who actually understand the responsibilities of command, regardless of politics, could not have avoided Rosenstein’s shameful abdication of his responsibility for the acts of his subordinates. It would be utterly unimaginable for such testimony to have been uttered by Defense Secretary Mattis, or any self-respecting General, Admiral, or uniformed law enforcement executive. Could you imagine the New York City Police Commissioner being asked why the officers under his or her command killed an unarmed civilian and answering, “Now Congressman, I am the Police Commissioner, Okay? I’m not the one doing the shooting.” If the Commissioner gave this answer, there would rightfully be outrage and protests, yet with Rosenstein, the public doesn’t seem to care, or even notice. But those of us who understand the responsibility of command do notice and care.

Perhaps part of the problem is that, while our armed forces and local and state law enforcement require its members to undergo extensive leadership training with each promotion, many other agencies do not. Rosenstein, for example, went from college, to law school, to a judicial clerkship, to the DOJ, which he has never left. Noticeably absent from his resume is any training in leadership. The DOJ offers its employees significant opportunities for advanced training in the technical skills of prosecuting, but not a single course on leadership and command.

So, perhaps we should not fault Rosenstein personally for his complete failure of leadership, as this is more of an institutional failure to recognize, develop and promote leadership. Perhaps, the American people would be better served by instituting a more robust leadership training program for the DOJ leadership, based on the military and law enforcement model of prioritizing leadership, command, and ethics, over the current culture.

Timothy Parlatore is a Navy veteran and prominent New York trial attorney. He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and Brooklyn Law School and served as a Surface Warfare Officer, and commander of a Naval Security Forces detachment. His legal practice focuses on constitutional issues, white collar investigations and defense, as well as complex civil litigation.

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Rod Rosenstein’s testimony before Congress this week has been analyzed and spun by pundits on all sides, each interpreting the testimony in a way that fits their preferred narrative of the Mueller investigation.
rod rosenstein, testimony, leadership, failure
Monday, 02 July 2018 08:53 AM
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