Summary of Rosenstein’s speech & my opinion of him
This is both a summary of Rosenstein’s speech and a fact check of it, with an opinion (at the end) about Rosenstein.
Update: The Washington Post reported Rod Rosenstein, who oversaw Mueller probe, repeatedly assured Trump that he would be treated fairly, that he wasn’t a “target” and that he was on the president’s team. At one point last fall, he grew emotional and begged not to be fired by Trump via tweet.
Matthew Miller on CNN: “It is a deeply disturbing report because what it shows is unethical conduct by the deputy attorney general… He shouldn’t be talking to the president about an investigation into the president… The way to understand Rod is that he’s weak. “
Last night, outgoing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein gave a speech at the Public Servants Dinner of the Armenian Bar Association. It can be read in full here. If you’d rather read a full summary, WaPo wrote up a good one.
Rosenstein actually quoted Trump as a model for the rule of law:
We use the term “rule of law” to describe our obligation to follow neutral principles. As President Trump pointed out, “we govern ourselves in accordance with the rule of law rather [than] … the whims of an elite few or the dictates of collective will.”
Then he defended how the DOJ (he and Bill Barr) handled the Mueller investigation and report, asserting they did a good job:
I did pledge to do it right and take it to the appropriate conclusion. I did not promise to report all results to the public, because grand jury investigations are ex parte proceedings. It is not our job to render conclusive factual findings. We just decide whether it is appropriate to file criminal charges.
Today, our nation is safer, elections are more secure, and citizens are better informed about covert foreign influence schemes. But not everybody was happy with my decision, in case you did not notice.
Rosenstein also bashed Obama and Comey:
The previous administration chose not to publicize the full story about Russian computer hackers and social media trolls, and how they relate to a broader strategy to undermine America. The FBI disclosed classified evidence about the investigation to ranking legislators and their staffers. Someone selectively leaked details to the news media. The FBI director announced at a congressional hearing that there was a counterintelligence investigation that might result in criminal charges. Then the former FBI director alleged that the President pressured him to close the investigation, and the President denied that the conversation occurred. So that happened.
Fact check 1: The congressional briefing of which Rosenstein complains took place because Sen. Charles Grassley wouldn’t confirm Rosenstein himself without such a briefing. In other words, a Republican senator insisted on the briefing Rosenstein blames Comey for, the briefing which got him his job.
Fact check 2: The Obama administration did not disclose the Russian attacks in 2016 because GOP Senator Mitch McConnell would not sign a bipartisan statement announcing and condemning the attacks.
Finally, I’d like to offer my thoughts on Rosenstein:
Rosenstein took part in Comey’s firing. The Mueller report suggests he wasn’t as in the dark to Trump’s motives as he publicly stated (i.e. he knew Trump was having Comey fired for not dropping the Flynn-Russia investigation). Comey’s firing directly led to Mueller’s appointment (by Rosenstein, perhaps to save his own butt once Trump made it publicly known the Rosenstein recommended Comey’s firing).
So Rosenstein, a witness in the Mueller probe, somehow gets to decide the result of said probe? If Trump obstructed justice by firing Comey, and Rosenstein helped fire Comey, then Rosenstein had potential criminal exposure. It was in his interest that Trump not be charged with obstruction.