The Slatest

Rod Rosenstein Speaks Out on Comey Firing for the First Time

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein at his confirmation hearing in March.

Win McNamee/Getty Images

Rod Rosenstein, the Justice Department official whose reputation for integrity was used last week by the Trump administration to justify the firing of FBI Director James Comey, told a group of businesspeople in Baltimore on Monday night that he does not care about his reputation.

“Many people have offered me unsolicited advice over the past few days about what I should do to promote my personal reputation,” the deputy attorney general said during his speech, according to the Baltimore Sun. “I took an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. There is nothing in that oath about my reputation.”

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Rosenstein, who served as U.S. Attorney for Maryland before taking his current job, declined to resign last week even after the president publicly asserted, in an interview with Lester Holt, that he had already decided to fire Comey before Rosenstein submitted his memo about Comey’s mishandling of the Hillary Clinton email probe. Trump’s disclosure essentially confirmed that, despite assurances made by White House officials early in the week, Rosenstein’s memo had been nothing more than pretext for dismissing Comey over the Russia investigation. But on Monday night Rosenstein wanted everyone at the Greater Baltimore Committee’s annual dinner to know that he is fine. Here’s the Sun:

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[Rosenstein] said a friend sent him a text message after the memo on Comey was released, urging him to “get out of there.”

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“I responded to my friend and I said, ‘There is no place I would rather be,’” Rosenstein said.

“What is courage in government? It certainly includes standing on principle, ignoring the tyranny of the news cycle, resisting the urge to spin, remaining focused on the things that matter. The daily newspapers and endless talk shows are not the verdict of history.”

One wonders what principle Rosenstein thinks he is standing on. Is it that he really thinks Comey deserved to be fired over the Clinton thing, and it doesn’t matter that he was fired for a different reason altogether? Or is it that he thinks it’s his patriotic duty to remain in this reckless and unpredictable administration to serve as a check or a steadying force? According to the Sun, Rosenstein seemed to imply the latter, telling his audience that, “one of the main problems in Washington, D.C., is everybody is so busy running around trying to protect their reputation instead of protecting the republic, which is what they’re supposed to be doing.”

Rosenstein, who appeared at the dinner Monday night to receive an award for “demonstrating courage in public service” as a federal prosecutor, told reporters after his speech that he had no comment on the latest scandal out of the White House, which centers on Trump revealing classified intelligence about ISIS to Russian officials.

Most likely Rosenstein just hadn’t had a chance to read the Washington Post story yet. Protecting the republic is time-consuming work.

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