Just days after bowing out at the Department of Justice, former deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein opened up—ever so slightly— about his role in the firing of FBI Director James Comey and his decision to appoint Robert Mueller special counsel. Speaking to the Greater Baltimore Committee Monday, the Washington Post reports, Rosenstein delivered prepared remarks that offered new details into his thinking about his time as a key figure in the Trump administration—and the investigation of it.
Here are the key takeaways from Rosenstein’s remarks:
Rosenstein didn’t believe Comey’s firing would affect the Russia investigation.
“[Rosenstein] said that when a White House lawyer first told him Trump had decided to fire Comey, ‘Nobody said that the removal was intended to influence the course of my Russia investigation,’” according to the Post. “’I would never have allowed anyone to interfere with the investigation,’ he asserted, though he conceded later that he ‘recognized that the unusual circumstances of the firing and the ensuing developments would give reasonable people cause to speculate about the credibility of the investigation.’”
Rosenstein would have handled Comey firing with “far more respect and far less drama.”
“[T]he removal would have been handled very differently, with far more respect and far less drama,” Rosenstein said. “If I had been asked to make a recommendation before the removal decision was made, I would have included a more balanced analysis of the pros and cons,” he said. “But my brief memo to the attorney general is correct, and it was reasonable under the circumstances.”
Comey made unreasonable decisions during Hillary Clinton email server investigation.
“Rosenstein said he ‘did not dislike’ Comey but that Comey took steps that were ‘not within the range of reasonable decisions’ during the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server,” the Post reports.
Rosenstein on need for special counsel.
“Rosenstein, who said he generally disfavors special counsels, also defended his appointment of Mueller. He said there was ‘overwhelming evidence’ of Russian hacking and efforts on social media to influence the 2016 election, and that the investigation was ‘justified,’” the Post reports. “I determined that I needed a special counsel to help resolve the election interference investigation in a way that would best protect America from foreign adversaries and preserve public confidence in the long run,” he said. “I knew that some people would not be happy about it. I knew that it would be unpleasant for me and my family.”
Comey is now a “partisan pundit.”
“[N]ow the former director is a partisan pundit, selling books and earning speaking fees while speculating about the strength of my character and the fate of my immortal soul,” Rosenstein said. “That is disappointing. Speculating about souls is not a job for police and prosecutors.”
Rosenstein on the fate of his immortal soul.
“My soul and character are pretty much the same today as they were two years ago,” he said.
“I took a few hits and made some enemies during my time in the arena, but I held my ground and made a lot of friends.”
I’m glad someone enjoyed it.