Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein knew President Trump planned to fire FBI Director Jim Comey before he sat down to write a memo criticizing Comey’s conduct.
That’s according to several United States senators who met with Rosenstein Thursday afternoon in a secure room in the Capitol basement.
“He knew that Comey was going to be removed prior to writing his memo,” Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill told reporters after the briefing.
Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin echoed McCaskill, saying Rosenstein told lawmakers that he knew of Trump’s intent the day before he wrote a document that the White House initially said was the main reason why Comey was dismissed.
Rosenstein fielded questions in the closed session for more than an hour, but many senators left the briefing unsatisfied.
Again, not shocking. But still important. It’s one of those little things that matters, and indicates how Trump corrupts the people around him.
Rosenstein knew at the time that he was concocting an official rationalization for the president to do what he was going to do anyway.
On May 10, conservative journalist Byron York reported that getting Rosenstein in place as deputy AG was necessary for the White House to fire Comey, because it gave them bipartisan cover:
Only after Rosenstein was in place did the Trump team move ahead. That was true not only for chain-of-command reasons but also — probably more importantly — because Rosenstein had the bipartisan street cred to be able to be the point man in firing Comey. Even though his confirmation was delayed, Rosenstein was eventually confirmed by the Senate by a 94 to 6 vote, meaning that the vast majority of Democratic senators voted for him along with all of the Republicans.
How important was the arrival of Rosenstein to the bid to fire Comey? This, from a source in a Senate office Wednesday morning: “Many who are suggesting that there’s something nefarious about the timing of the Comey firing are likely missing the fact that DAG Rosenstein was sworn in two weeks ago (April 26), and that the FBI Director reports to the DAG on the DOJ org chart. It seems completely normal that the DAG would review their top reports within the first couple weeks of starting.”
Discount the part about “completely normal” — firing the FBI director, who has a ten-year term and was conducting a high-profile investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election that touches on the president, was not a routine act. The point is, it took the arrival of Rosenstein to do it.
Read Rosenstein’s May 9 memo to the Attorney General detailing Comey’s failures. Rosenstein does not actually recommend firing Comey; he only provides the rationale. AG Jeff Sessions recommends the firing, and Trump executes it.
So Rosenstein knew that his reputation was being used to cover up something Trump intended to do anyway, for reasons that wouldn’t have flown politically had they been known. In other words, he let Trump’s dirty move conceal itself under his (Rosenstein’s) reputation for fairness. But Trump himself blew the story up when he told NBC’s Lester Holt that he had his anger over the Russia investigation in mind when he fired Comey. Now it’s clear from Rosenstein’s own admission that he knowingly participated in a charade.
And it’s clear (as if it weren’t already) that Donald Trump lies, and is pleased to corrupt those who serve him, to make them accomplices in his deception.
What Rosenstein did is not a crime, and for all I know, it may simply be a case of the public inadvertently getting a look at how the sausage is made. If you read Rosenstein’s firing memo, it is likely that everything in it is factually true. But if so, they were truths written down for use in the telling of a lie, for misleading the American people.
Where does Rod Rosenstein’s good reputation stand today? I wonder if anybody who works high up in this administration is going to come out of it with his reputation intact.