Attorney General Rod Rosenstein believed the White House used him to help justify President Trump’s firing of FBI director James Comey last May, the New York Times reported Friday.
“Shaken,” “unsteady,” “overwhelmed,” “frantic” and “upset” were among the adjectives Rosenstein acquaintances offered to the newspaper to describe his mood in the days after Comey’s abrupt dismissal.
Both Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions wrote memos rationalizing Comey’s firing, citing his unprecedented public discussion of the FBI’s election-year investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. Rosenstein defended the memo to Congress last year, saying, “I stand by it.”
The deputy attorney general is in an uncomfortable position. He bore witness to that firing and then appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel in the federal Russia investigation, which is now probing whether Comey’s firing constituted obstruction of justice. Some lawmakers have called for Rosenstein to recuse himself from overseeing Mueller’s investigation because of that conflict.
The Times also reported that Rosenstein did not consult with Sessions before deciding to appoint Mueller, a move that blindsided the attorney general and infuriated the President. Sources told the paper he made that step privately because he feared being fired by Trump.