Category: Rod J. Rosenstein

Thoughts on Rod Rosenstein’s testimony

Thoughts on Rod Rosenstein’s testimony

Lawfare
By Benjamin Wittes

Mr. Wittes writes: “I have not watched all of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee yesterday. But I watched three hours of it, and that was quite enough to convey the disturbing and dangerous nature of the current moment.”

It was enough to highlight the apparent breadth of the congressional Republican effort to delegitimize the Robert Mueller investigation. The attacks on Mueller and his staff and allegations of supposed conflicts of interest were not the province of a fringe but a matter of an apparent consensus among House Republicans, at least on the famously partisan judiciary committee.

It was enough to loose upon the world an almost hysterical attack on an FBI agent and an FBI attorney in the presence of little evidence that either has done anything wrong—as opposed to merely ill-advised and unfortunate—and in the midst of an ongoing inspector general investigation that has not yet reached any conclusions.

It was enough to lay bare the absurdity of Republican demands for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate a series of matters about which there is not even the barest allegation of criminal conduct—let alone a predicate for an actual investigation.

It was enough to bring to the surface the bizarre fixation in the Republican caucus on conspiracy theories involving Fusion GPS, the so-called Steele Dossier, FISA surveillance, and the Mueller investigation.

And it was enough to make clear, yet again, that Rod Rosenstein is a man out of his depth and to make one sympathize for him at the same time.

At yesterday’s hearing, Republican Rep. Jim Jordan announced about the Mueller probe that “The public trust in this whole thing is gone.”

The trouble is that if enough members of Congress tenaciously attack the institution over a long period of time, Jordan’s words could acquire the quality of self-fulfilling prophecy. It is an enormously damaging undertaking for members of Congress to self-consciously erode public confidence in federal law enforcement.

Even if that doesn’t happen, public confidence in Mueller may not be enough when the President’s political base—in conservative media, in Congress, and the broader political ecosystem—is rallying behind the proposition that the Justice Department, the special counsel, and the FBI are all out of control. The concern, and yesterday’s hearing dramatically highlights that concern, is that if Trump believes he has Republican cover to get rid of Mueller, he may feel emboldened to act against him even in the presence of broader public support.

DOJ never told Comey of concerns before axing him and now he’s ‘angry,’ sources say

From ABC News — Written by Mark Levine

In the dead of winter several months ago — before either one officially joined the Justice Department — Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein met to discuss replacing James Comey as FBI director. Then in a February meeting at the White House, Rosenstein and President Donald Trump further “discussed” Comey’s “deeply troubling” and “serious mistakes,” Rosenstein wrote in his now-infamous letter recommending that Comey be fired.

But it turns out Rosenstein and Sessions never discussed such concerns with one key person: Comey himself.

Specifically, according to sources familiar with the matter, at no point in the weeks and months before Comey’s termination did Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein or Attorney General Sessions tell Comey they were uneasy about his leadership or upset over what Rosenstein later called Comey’s “mistaken” decision to announce the results of the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server last year.

The failure to flag any such concerns to Comey before terminating him is part of what makes the former FBI director feel so blindsided. It’s also part of the story he’s planning to tell lawmakers next week when — barring a last-minute schedule change — he testifies publicly for the first time about his axing, and about alleged collusion between Trump associates and elements of the Russian government to influence last year’s presidential election.

As one source put it: He’s “angry,” and he wants the public to understand why.

Rod Rosenstein has one chance to save himself

From The Washington Post and reported by Dana Milbank —

Rod Rosenstein: Save yourself.

For years, the man who just became the No. 2 official in the Justice Department painstakingly built a reputation as a gifted prosecutor and an above-the-fray lawman, serving Democratic and Republican administrations alike.

Now, just over two weeks into his new job, he has become a national joke.

So he therefore must be content in the work environment he just joined. In case he missed it, this is what we’ve seen from that administration this week:

●The White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, hiding among the bushes on the White House north lawn and demanding that journalists turn off their camera lights before he would speak to them about the Comey affair.

●Comey learning that he had been fired when he saw it on TV on a West Coast swing; he thought it was a prank.

●The White House offering a profusion of conflicting accounts about Comey’s dismissal, culminating in Trump contradicting his own aides by saying he would have fired Comey even if Rosenstein hadn’t written that preposterous memo citing the Clinton email case.

●The White House blocking American reporters and photographers from covering Trump’s meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov but admitting a photographer from the Russian state news agency Tass, which published photos of the meeting.

●The president going on Twitter to attack, again, a Democratic senator for mischaracterizing his military service years ago and to renew his long-standing feud with Rosie O’Donnell.

●The very same president registering the approval of just 36 percent of the country in a new Quinnipiac University poll. When Americans were asked to volunteer a word that comes to mind when they think of Trump, the top answer was “idiot.”

Inside Trump’s anger and impatience — and his sudden decision to fire Comey

From The Washington Post and written by Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker, Sari Horwitz and Robert Costa —

Every time FBI Director James B. Comey appeared in public, an ever-watchful President Trump grew increasingly agitated that the topic was the one that he was most desperate to avoid: Russia.

Trump summoned Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein to the White House for a meeting, according to a person close to the White House.

The president already had decided to fire Comey, according to a person close to the White House. But in the meeting, several White House officials said Trump gave Sessions and Rosenstein a directive: to explain in writing the case against Comey.

The pair quickly fulfilled the boss’s orders, and the next day Trump fired Comey.

The private accounts of more than 30 officials at the White House, the Justice Department, the FBI and on Capitol Hill, as well as Trump confidants and other senior Republicans, paint a conflicting narrative centered on the president’s brewing personal animus toward Comey. Many of those interviewed spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to candidly discuss internal deliberations.

Trump was angry that Comey would not support his baseless claim that President Barack Obama had his campaign offices wiretapped. Trump was frustrated when Comey revealed in Senate testimony the breadth of the counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s effort to sway the 2016 U.S. presidential election. And he fumed that Comey was giving too much attention to the Russia probe and not enough to investigating leaks to journalists.

Within the Justice Department and the FBI, the firing of Comey has left raw anger, and some fear, according to multiple officials. Thomas O’Connor, the president of the FBI Agents Association, called Comey’s firing “a gut punch. We didn’t see it coming, and we don’t think Director Comey did anything that would lead to this.’’

One intelligence official who works on Russian espionage matters said they were more determined than ever to pursue such cases. Another said Comey’s firing and the subsequent comments from the White House are attacks that won’t soon be forgotten. Trump had “essentially declared war on a lot of people at the FBI,” one official said. “I think there will be a concerted effort to respond over time in kind.”