By Jon Dougherty
It’s beginning to look a lot like the rats are deserting the ship over the Spygate scandal, as evidenced by a scathing speech former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein gave on Monday blasting fired FBI Director James Comey as a partisan hack.
In comments made to the Greater Baltimore Committee that he almost certainly knew would be picked up and widely reported, Rosenstein accused Comey of being a “partisan pundit” while blaming him for trampling “bright lines that should never be crossed.”
Rosenstein appeared to be responding to comments Comey made last week regarding him and Attorney General William Barr, in which the former FBI Director said they didn’t have the “inner strength” to “resist the compromises necessary to survive Mr. Trump.”
In addition, Comey claimed that Rosenstein’s ‘soul’ was being consumed by the president ‘in little bites.’
“Now, the former director is a partisan pundit, selling books and earning speaking fees while speculating about the strength of my character and the fate of my immortal soul,” Rosenstein said in his speech.
“That is disappointing. Speculating about souls is not a job for police and prosecutors. Generally, we base our opinions on eyewitness testimony.”
Rosenstein said that, in the past, he admired Comey — back when he himself had not ‘sold his soul’ to Hillary Clinton — but that his obvious effort to tank her probe had soured him.
“The clearest mistake was the director’s decision to hold a press conference about an open case, reveal his recommendation and discuss details about the investigation, without the consent of the prosecutors and the attorney general,” Rosenstein said.
“Then, he chose to send a letter to the Congress on the eve of the election stating that one of the candidates was under criminal investigation, expecting it to be released immediately to the public.”
Continuing, Rosenstein said, “Those actions were not within the range of reasonable decisions. They were inconsistent with our goal of communicating to all FBI employees that they should respect the attorney general’s role, refrain from disclosing information about criminal investigations, avoid disparaging uncharged persons, and above all, not take unnecessary steps that could influence an election.”
Regarding Rosenstein’s speech, Fox News noted:
Rosenstein called his memorandum supporting Comey’s firing “reasonable under the circumstances,” and said he would have provided a more fleshed-out analysis of the “pros and cons” of terminating the FBI director had he been “asked to make a recommendation before the removal decision was made.”
But, Rosenstein emphasized, Trump “did not tell me what reasons to put in my memo.” The president repeatedly has suggested that Comey’s refusal to acknowledge publicly — as he had privately — that Trump was not under investigation ultimately played a role in his termination.
Audience appetite and President Trump are fueling saturation coverage, says Fox News media analyst Howard Kurtz.
Let us recall that Rosenstein, according to numerous reports, wasn’t a saint, either. He appointed special counsel Robert Mueller, whose investigation undermined POTUS Trump and his administration for nearly 18 months.
The deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, suggested last year that he secretly record President Trump in the White House to expose the chaos consuming the administration, and he discussed recruiting cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Mr. Trump from office for being unfit.
Mr. Rosenstein made these suggestions in the spring of 2017 when Mr. Trump’s firing of James B. Comey as F.B.I. director plunged the White House into turmoil. Over the ensuing days, the president divulged classified intelligence to Russians in the Oval Office, and revelations emerged that Mr. Trump had asked Mr. Comey to pledge loyalty and end an investigation into a senior aide.
Mr. Rosenstein made the remarks about secretly recording Mr. Trump and about the 25th Amendment in meetings and conversations with other Justice Department and F.B.I. officials. Several people described the episodes in interviews over the past several months, insisting on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. The people were briefed either on the events themselves or on memos written by F.B.I. officials, including Andrew G. McCabe, then the acting bureau director, that documented Mr. Rosenstein’s actions and comments.
Rosenstein has always denied the story.
Recall, again, that he was slated to go to the White House around the time this report first surfaced and ‘discuss’ it with the president, but that meeting never took place. Rather, Rosenstein appeared to become a Trump team player instead.
As for his recommendation for firing Comey, Rosenstein did take ownership of that.
Maybe Rosenstein’s speech is his way of telegraphing Comey that the wrath of Trump, via AG Barr, is on its way.
- Follow Jon Dougherty on Twitter at @JonDougherty10