Rod Rosenstein has already fallen on his sword for Donald Trump once when, in a move that effectively made him Devin Nunes 2.0, the Deputy Attorney General fabricated a recommendation to fire FBI Director James Comey, in the process assuming responsibility for what was quite clearly a directive from the Oval Office.
That certainly seems to suggest that Rosenstein may ultimately find himself in the line of fire when shit really starts to hit the fan on the obstruction of justice charges. Of course he could point to the appointment of special counsel Mueller as evidence he wasn’t complicit, but that’s kind of like Trump pointing to the 59 tomahawk missiles he launched at Syria as “proof” he’s not colluding with Moscow.
Well, it looks as though Rosenstein has fallen further down the rabbit hole. In a move that either i) presages the imminent release of a bombshell report, ii) represents the Department of Justice sending a veiled threat to America’s free press, or iii) both, Rosenstein issued the following statement on Thursday evening:
Americans should exercise caution before accepting as true any stories attributed to anonymous ‘officials,’ particularly when they do not identify the country — let alone the branch or agency of government — with which the alleged sources supposedly are affiliated. Americans should be skeptical about anonymous allegations. The Department of Justice has a long-established policy to neither confirm nor deny such allegations.
Now for one thing, it’s absurd on its face for the Deputy AG to pretend like he has no idea why Trump’s leakers would want to remain anonymous.
But besides that, he’s quite literally trying to undercut the legitimacy of the press. Indeed, it kinda sounds like a threat. Especially in light of what Trump has said this year about “changing the libel laws” in order to prosecute media outlets for unfavorable coverage.
Further, I’m sure it’s not lost on Rosenstein that this statement will invariably accomplish the exact opposite of its stated intent. Telling America not to trust WaPo, Reuters, and the New York Times (which is obviously what he’s doing) will only make everyone trust those outlets more by making it seem like the DoJ is now simply taking Trump’s tweets, rewording them, and putting them out as official statements.
You’re reminded that with Attorney General Jeff Sessions having recused himself, Rosenstein is the person directly in charge of the investigation into Russian interference in the election. This casts considerable doubt on his ability to be objective.
In short, this was a really – really – stupid thing to do.
And you have to believe Rod Rosenstein knows that.
But do you know who wouldn’t understand why it’s a stupid thing to do? The person who ordered Rosenstein to say it.