On Wednesday morning, President Donald Trump retweeted a fan account meme that depicted Barack Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and a variety of other political adversaries behind bars. The caption read: “Now that Russia collusion is a proven lie, when do the trials for treason begin?”
Journalists pointed out that it was highly unusual for a president to baselessly accuse his predecessor and his former political rival of treason. A reporter for the New York Post asked the president about a different and less prominent face in the jailed crowd. Tucked away in the back, behind Obama and John Podesta, was the face of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
In an interview with the Post, Trump was asked about Rosenstein’s inclusion: “Why do you think he belongs behind bars?”
“He should have never picked a special counsel,” Trump responded.
Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller in May 2017 after Jeff Sessions, then the attorney general, recused himself from the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Trump has repeatedly and regularly grouched about the special counsel investigation, complaining of bias and accusing the investigators themselves of being criminal. On Thursday morning, he again railed against the “witch hunt.”
Trump has made no secret of his animosity toward Sessions and Rosenstein, both of whom he blamed for the investigation and its survival this far into his presidency. Trump fired Sessions earlier this month. Rosenstein offered his resignation in September, following reports that he discussed invoking the 25th Amendment process for removing the president and the idea of secretly recording the president. (Rosenstein denied the reports and said he had been speaking sarcastically.) Trump did not accept that resignation, and when the Post asked Trump if he intended to fire Rosenstein, the president declined to answer.
Rosenstein was the only current administration official in the meme, but the list of former government officials included is long. The other people Trump seemed to endorse jailing were James Comey, Loretta Lynch, Huma Abedin, Eric Holder, James Clapper, and Mueller.