The Slatest

Report: Rosenstein Told Trump He Was “on His Team” in Conversation About Mueller

Rosenstein, standing straight with his arms to the side, looks straight forward as Barr speaks at a lectern.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein listens while Attorney General William Barr, to the left, presents his summary of the Mueller report at a press conference at the Department of Justice on April 18, 2019, in Washington, DC. Brendan Sialowski/Getty Images

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who has been criticized for his role in the very pro-Trump tilt the Department of Justice has given the Mueller Report, once vowed to Trump that he was “on his team” and could guarantee Mueller treated him “fairly,” the Washington Post reported Friday.

“I give the investigation credibility,” Rosenstein reportedly said, according to one official familiar with the conversation who talked to the Post. “I can land the plane.”

The conversation came about in the wake of a September 2018 story from the New York Times reporting that Rosenstein had suggested wearing a wire to record Trump after the president fired James Comey. When the Times published its story, Rosenstein pushed back, calling the details in the Times story false. And, according to the Post, Rosenstein offered Trump those same reassurances in a conversation the president initiated. To prevent himself from being quickly fired by the president, the Post reports, Rosenstein reassured Trump of his loyalty and blamed the story on former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe (one source told the Post Rosenstein had been “teary-eyed” before the call).

Many have seen Rosenstein as the Mueller investigation’s protector in the administration (the deputy attorney general appointed the special counsel). Rosenstein did publicly defend the special counsel’s investigation, but he also stood in support with Attorney General William Barr last week as Barr presented a misleadingly pro-Trump summary of the Mueller report. He even flew in from Florida, where he was on a family vacation, to be with Barr as he presented the report.

Rosenstein denied wrongdoing in his statement to the Post. “The only commitment I made to President Trump about the Russia investigation is the same commitment I made to the Congress: so long as I was in charge, it would be conducted appropriately and as expeditiously as possible,” he said. “Everyone who actually participated in the investigation knows that.”

As the Post article itself suggests, he worked to keep his position by employing the language Trump wanted to hear, navigating in the grey areas to placate the president wherever he could. As an example, Rosenstein repeatedly reassured Trump that he was not a “target” of the Mueller investigation—a law enforcement term separate from being a “subject” of an investigation, which Trump in reality was.

In his statement to the Post, Rosenstein added: “My relationship with the President is not one-dimensional. The Russia investigation represents only a fraction of my work and the work of the Department of Justice. I talk with the President at every opportunity about the great progress we have made and are making at the Department of Justice in achieving the Administration’s law enforcement priorities and protecting American citizens.”

On Thursday night, after being contacted by the Post for comment, Rosenstein gave an unusual speech railing on the news media. “Some of the nonsense that passes for breaking news today would not be worth the paper was printed on, if anybody bothered to print it,” he said.