Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will send a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Thursday demanding more information on the circumstances surrounding the firing of James Comey as FBI director.
Schumer noted that the Trump administration used Rosenstein’s memo about Comey’s conduct in the Hillary Clinton email server probe as justification for the former director’s firing, but argued that reports on the President’s reasoning cast doubt on that official explanation.
“This skepticism, and indeed all of the circumstances surrounding Director Comey’s dismissal just as he was leading an investigation into the Trump administration’s and Trump campaign’s ties with Russia and President Putin’s interference with the 2016 election, have shaken public confidence in the Department, in your leadership, and in the administration of law and justice in our country,” Schumer wrote.
He asked Rosenstein a long list of questions about the run-up to Comey’s departure and his role in the decision-making process to dismiss the FBI Director.
May 10, 2017
The Honorable Rod Rosenstein
Deputy Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20530
Dear Mr. Rosenstein,
Over the last three decades of your career at the Department of Justice, you have developed a reputation for integrity and impartiality. That reputation, along with the personal and public commitments you made to me and other Senators that you would be an independent, apolitical actor as Deputy Attorney General, earned you broad bipartisan support in your confirmation vote. And that reputation is now imperiled by your participation in the abrupt dismissal of FBI Director Comey.
Your memorandum to Attorney General Sessions described disagreement with Director Comey’s conduct last summer and fall; it was used as the justification for his dismissal this week. However, there is widely reported skepticism that the reasons laid out in your memo are the real basis for the President’s decision to fire Director Comey. This skepticism, and indeed all of the circumstances surrounding Director Comey’s dismissal just as he was leading an investigation into the Trump administration’s and Trump campaign’s ties with Russia and President Putin’s interference with the 2016 election, have shaken public confidence in the Department, in your leadership, and in the administration of law and justice in our country.
In order to restore the nation’s faith in you personally and in our law enforcement system more broadly, the American people must understand more about your role in the President’s firing of Director Comey. To that end, please answer the following questions by Monday, May 15th.
1. It was publicly reported that Director Comey last week asked you for additional resources for the investigation into the Trump campaign’s connection to Russia. Are these reports accurate?
a. Did Director Comey recently provide you with a briefing on this investigation or any other politically sensitive investigation? Please describe the date and circumstances of any such update.
b. Did you convey any information provided by Director Comey to Attorney General Sessions or anyone in the Executive Office of the President? Please describe the date and circumstances of any such conveyance.
2. It was reported that the President decided over the weekend to fire Director Comey and summoned you and Attorney General Sessions to the White House to discuss the Director on Monday May 8th. Are these reports accurate?
a. Did you meet with the President on Monday, May 8th?
b. Were you aware what would be the topic of the meeting before you arrived?
c. Did you discuss the topic of the meeting with Attorney General Sessions or anyone in the Executive Office of the President before the meeting?
d. Who was present at the meeting?
e. Did the President or anyone else tell you the President had made a decision to fire Director Comey?
f. Did the President or anyone else ask for a justification to fire Director Comey?
g. Did the President or anyone else direct you to write your memo?
3. On Tuesday, May 9th, you sent a memorandum to the Attorney General entitled “Restoring Public Confidence in the FBI.” What were the circumstances that led to the drafting and transmittal of this memo?
a. Who participated in the drafting of the memo, including but not limited to its preparation before it was finalized?
b. Who provided guidance, in any form whatsoever, on the memo’s contents, style, timing or any other element?
c. Who was aware that the memo was being prepared?
d. Who reviewed the memo before it was finalized?
e. Were you aware when you drafted the memo that it would be used to justify the firing of Director Comey?
f. Why does the memo not explicitly call for the Director to be dismissed?
g. Was Attorney General Sessions or anyone in the Executive Office of the President involved, in any capacity whatsoever, in the planning, drafting, consideration, review, or transmittal of the memo?
4. Attorney General Sessions recused himself from any role in the investigation of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 elections and the Trump campaign because of his close relationship with the campaign and his own undisclosed contacts with Russian officials. Yet your memorandum is addressed to him and, according to public reporting, he participated in the decision to fire Director Comey. How do you reconcile Attorney General Sessions’s participation with his ethical obligations under the Department’s recusal guidelines?
a. Did you and Attorney General Sessions ever discuss whether it would be improper for him to be involved in the dismissal of the lead investigator of a politically sensitive investigation from which he was recused?
b. Did you or anyone else in the Justice Department ever advise Attorney General Sessions not to participate in these discussions or the dismissal?
c. Did you seek, or are you aware of anyone else at the Justice Department seeking, advice or counsel about whether it was appropriate for Attorney General Sessions to participate in these discussions or the dismissal?
5. After Director Comey was fired, the White House said that you had initiated the memorandum on your own and that you instigated the decision to remove him. Yet this morning, press reports indicate that you threatened to resign because “the narrative emerging from the White House on Tuesday evening cast [you] as a prime mover of the decision to fire Comey and that the president acted only on [your] recommendation.” Are these reports accurate?
a. Did you object, either to the White House, to Attorney General Sessions, or to anyone else, to the media characterizations of your role in the firing?
b. Did you take any steps to correct any inaccuracies in the public record?
c. Did you discuss the possibility that you might resign from the Department with anyone?
I look forward to your prompt response to my letter. In addition, I hope you will make yourself available to me and all of my colleagues to answer these and other additional questions that will arise.
Charles E. Schumer