Through a combination of testimony and news reports from inside the Justice Department over the past week, Americans have been able to get a clearer picture of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein than they have at any time thus far in his tenure in the DOJ. And what has emerged does not look good. Not for Rosenstein, anyway, who has demonstrated a stunning lack of leadership, a defiant contempt for Congress, and a pattern of conflicts that make him unsuitable for the position of overseeing the Mueller investigation.
Whether he can keep his job through all of this remains to be seen; we’ll remain neutral on that question for now. But it is increasingly clear that when it pertains to the Russia investigation, it’s time for Rosenstein to follow his boss’s lead and recuse himself from the entire matter.
Rosenstein is “conflicted” in a number of areas when it comes to the Russia probe, but none are more obvious than in Mueller’s side-gig exploration as to whether or not President Trump obstructed justice when firing James Comey. It cannot be ignored that Trump used Rosenstein’s letter of recommendation as the basis for firing the former FBI director, and according to a piece in the New York Times this weekend, the deputy attorney general has not forgotten about it.
From the Times:
In the days after the F.B.I. director James B. Comey was fired last year, the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, repeatedly expressed anger about how the White House used him to rationalize the firing, saying the experience damaged his reputation, according to four people familiar with his outbursts.
But in meetings with law enforcement officials in the chaotic days immediately after Mr. Comey’s dismissal, and in subsequent conversations with colleagues and friends, Mr. Rosenstein appeared conflicted, according to the four people.
He alternately defended his involvement, expressed remorse at the tumult it unleashed, said the White House had manipulated him, fumed how the news media had portrayed the events and said the full story would vindicate him, said the people, who in recent weeks described the previously undisclosed episodes.
Does this sound like someone who can impartially oversee an investigation into the very matter we’re talking about? Does this sound like someone who can fairly judge whether or not to accept or reject the special counsel’s recommendations as to what prosecutions should be pursued? What a joke. The Times’ sources actually USE the word “conflicted.” That’s all you need to know that Rosenstein should not be within a country mile of this investigation.
Of course, that’s only the beginning when it comes to Rosenstein’s problematic position. Instead of cooperating with House committees whose constitutional job it is to oversee the Justice Department, he has obstructed, withheld documents from, and threatened lawmakers. He has made it clear that his primary responsibility is to the Justice Department, NOT justice itself. That’s a pretty big problem for the man who is, in this case at least, the top prosecutor in America.