The Trump/Rosenstein Russian Nesting Doll of Nonsense

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 13: U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testifies during a a House Judiciary Committee hearing on December 13, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
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Note that there is an emerging attack from the White House that suggests that Rod Rosenstein must recuse himself because he has a conflict of interest in overseeing the Mueller probe. The conflict is this: Mueller is investigating the firing of James Comey as a central part of his investigation of potential obstruction of justice. But Rosenstein was a central player in that firing. He wrote the memo that Trump used to justify Comey’s ouster.

As you can see, the argument is not that crazy in itself. There are in fact many people who have suggested that Rosenstein should recuse himself. But note the position in which this puts the White House. The President is saying that Rosenstein can’t oversee the probe because he was a central actor in one of the President’s alleged bad acts that is under investigation.

This is very reminiscent of Trump’s original rationale for firing James Comey: he was too unfair to Hillary Clinton. Comey’s acts in 2016 with respect to Hillary Clinton were a disgrace. I think I may have said that he should in fact resign. But obviously this was probably the least credible explanation or rationale President Trump could provide for firing Comey.

Of course, who articulated this comically preposterous rationale? Right. Rod Rosenstein.

Trump made clear he wanted to fire Comey. Trump met with Rosenstein and Sessions. At Trump’s direction Rosenstein wrote the memo. Rosenstein wrote a memo that had some notional merit in describing the poor judgement and violations of departmental guidelines Comey had used in dealing with Clinton. But it was obvious, and Rosenstein certainly knew, that this was not the reason Trump was firing Comey. In other words, Rosenstein implicated himself in the same nonsensical Trumpian bad faith nonsense which Trump and his associates now plan to use against him.

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