Later On

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Et Tu Rod? Why The Deputy Attorney General Must Resign

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Benjamin Wittes writes at LawFare:

“He made—he made a recommendation,” Donald Trump said yesterday of his Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein in an interview with NBC News. “He’s highly respected, very good guy, very smart guy. The Democrats like him; the Republicans like him. He made a recommendation, but regardless of the recommendation, I was going to fire Comey.”

There it is, directly from the presidential mouth: Trump happily traded the reputation of Rosenstein, who began the week as a well-respected career prosecutor, for barely 24 hours of laughably transparent talking points in the news cycle. The White House sent out person after person—including the Vice President—to insist that Rosenstein’s memo constituted the basis for the President’s action against the FBI director. The White House described a bottoms-up dissatisfaction with Comey’s leadership, which Rosenstein’s memo encapsulated and to which the President acceded. And then, just as casually as Trump and his people set Rosenstein up as the bad guy for what was obviously a presidential decision into whose service Rosenstein had been enlisted, Trump revealed that Rosenstein was, after all, nothing more than a set piece.

Here’s the entire exchange between Trump and NBC:

LESTER HOLT: Monday you met with the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosen—Rosenstein

DONALD TRUMP: Right.

LESTER HOLT: Did you ask for a recommendation?

DONALD TRUMP: Uh what I did is I was going to fire Comey—my decision, it was not [OVER TALK]

LESTER HOLT: You had made the decision before they came in the room?

DONALD TRUMP: I—I was going to fire Comey. Uh I—there’s no good time to do it by the way. Uh they—they were [OVER TALK]

LESTER HOLT: Because you letter you said I—I, I accepted their recommendation, so you had already made the decision.

DONALD TRUMP: Oh I was gonna fire regardless of recommendation.

LESTER HOLT: So there was [OVER TALK]

DONALD TRUMP: He made—he made a recommendation, he’s highly respected, very good guy, very smart guy, uh the Democrats like him, the Republicans like him, uh he made a recommendation but regardless of recommendation I was going to fire Comey knowing, there was no good time to do it. And in fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.

Note that Trump did not merely reveal Rosenstein as a set piece here; he revealed him as a set piece in Trump’s own effort to frustrate the Russia investigation. The story as told by the president to NBC now is that Trump decided to fire Comey in connection with saying to himself that the Russia investigation was a made up story, and that it was in that context that he got Rosenstein to write a pretextual memo.

Rosenstein appears to know he has been used. The Washington Post reports that he threatened to resign, as the Post puts it, “after the narrative emerging from the White House on Tuesday evening cast him as a prime mover of the decision to fire Comey and that the president acted only on his recommendation.” Rosenstein yesterday denied that he had threatened to resign, and the Wall Street Journal offers a slightly more modest version, in which Rosenstein “pressed White House counsel Don McGahn to correct what he felt was an inaccurate White House depiction of the events surrounding” Comey’s firing. He “left the impression he couldn’t work in an environment where facts weren’t accurately portrayed.”

And Rosenstein got what he wanted: The White House, and Trump himself, have come clean. The firing of Comey had nothing to do with Rosenstein’s memo. As the White House has now made clear, in a timeline released Wednesday, there were other reasons. As the Journal reports: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 May 2017 at 7:16 pm

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