If Donald Trump was already predisposed to casting a wary eye at Rod Rosenstein (a.k.a., “Mr. Peepers“), you can expect the President to avoid the Deputy Attorney General altogether going forward. Because according to the New York Times, Rosenstein might have recorded Trump in the White House in an effort to lay bare just how tumultuous this administration really was in the days following the firing of James Comey.
On top of that, Rosenstein reportedly tried to marshal support from Trump’s cabinet for invoking the 25th amendment.
[Aside: Do make sure and read to the end here, because it seems at least possible that "someone” may have planted this story]
The bombshell revelations come courtesy of what the Times says are the accounts of “several people” who were “briefed either on the events themselves or on memos written by F.B.I. officials”. One of those officials: Andrew McCabe, a Trump nemesis who was dispatched by Jeff Sessions earlier this year just days ahead of when his (McCabe’s) pension would have vested.
Rosenstein reportedly hinted at the recordings and at his efforts to gather support for removing the President after James Comey was dismissed and after Trump’s subsequent decision to invite both Sergei Lavrov and Sergey Kislyak to the Oval Office. The meeting with the two Sergeis unfolded just hours after Comey was fired and produced a series of disconcerting visuals, including this one:
You’re reminded that Lavrov (left) lampooned Comey’s firing in a presser with Rex Tillerson just before the picture shown above was taken.
Later, reports suggested Trump shared classified intelligence with Lavrov and Kislyak, unprompted.
In the days following that meeting, the sources who spoke to the Times say Rosenstein “made remarks about secretly recording Trump and about the 25th Amendment in meetings and conversations with other Justice Department and F.B.I. officials.”
The Times also notes that Rosenstein was not amused when Trump used his memo to justify firing James Comey. At the time, we suggested that Rosenstein’s participation in the charade effectively made him “Devin Nunes 2.0”. In other words, it was clear that Rod was being used, the only question was whether he was a willing accomplice or simply someone who got caught up in the administration’s early efforts to subvert the investigation into Russian interference in the election. Here’s what the Times has to say about that:
Mr. Rosenstein was just two weeks into his job. He had begun overseeing the Russia investigation and played a key role in the president’s dismissal of Mr. Comey by writing a memo critical of his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. But Mr. Rosenstein was caught off guard when Mr. Trump cited the memo in the firing, and he began telling people that he feared he had been used.
Rosenstein has since become a source of concern for the President, who earlier this year seemed to be on the verge of firing the Deputy AG. For instance, during Devin Nunes’s “memo” fiasco, Trump said this when asked whether he still had confidence in Rosenstein:
At that point, it was clear that Trump wanted to remove Rosenstein and once it was confirmed that the Deputy AG personally signed off on the FBI raid of Michael Cohen’s offices, home, and hotel room, everyone went ahead and assumed it was just a matter of time before the President moved against the Department of Justice.
In early April, CNN reported that Trump was indeed thinking of getting rid of Rosenstein in order to try and stymie Mueller. To wit:
President Donald Trump is considering firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, multiple people familiar with the discussions tell CNN, a move that has gained urgency following the raid of the office of the President’s personal lawyer.
Such an action could potentially further Trump’s goal of trying to put greater limits on special counsel Robert Mueller.
This is one of several options — including going so far as to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions — Trump is weighing in the aftermath of the FBI’s decision Monday to raid the office of Michael Cohen, the President’s personal lawyer and longtime confidant. Officials say if Trump acts, Rosenstein is his most likely target, but it’s unclear whether even such a dramatic firing like this would be enough to satisfy the President.
Speculation has swirled since then, with the latest threat emanating from Republican Representatives Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan, who in late July actually tried to impeach the Deputy AG, only to get (literally) laughed out of the room by the normally insufferable Trey Gowdy.
Over the past two months, the President has repeatedly lambasted Jeff Sessions for his decision to recuse, a move that effectively created the current situation where Rosenstein serves as a firewall between the White House and the Mueller probe.
One certainly wonders if Trump will use the New York Times story as ammunition to push for Rosenstein’s ouster, although you’re reminded that such a move might not be necessary. If the President removes Sessions, it’s (I suppose) conceivable that the new AG will simply take command of the special counsel investigation.
Of course Trump is fond of labeling the Times “fake news”, so it will be interesting to see if he applies that same skepticism towards the paper when it comes to stories he could potentially use to his advantage.
In fact, one almost wonders whether Trump could have planted this himself to serve as some kind of pretense for cleaning house at the DoJ.
For his part, Rosenstein says the Times article has no merit. We’ll leave you with his statement on the matter:
The New York Times’s story is inaccurate and factually incorrect. I will not further comment on a story based on anonymous sources who are obviously biased against the department and are advancing their own personal agenda. But let me be clear about this: Based on my personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment.