Speaking on Monday at the Great Baltimore Committee Monday evening, Rosenstein discussed several topics, including his handling of the Russia investigation and his recommendation to President Trump to fire Comey, who Rosenstein called a “partisan pundit”
While discussing Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, Rosenstein said that “while there are many issues in our line [of work] in which a range of decisions may be reasonable, there are bright lines that should never be crossed,” criticizing Comey’s decision to hold a July 2016 press conference in which he explained why Clinton would not face charges. He then slammed Comey’s 11th hour letter to Congress days before the 2016 election explaining that decision.
“Those actions were not within the range of reasonable decisions,” said Rosenstein. “They were inconsistent with our goal of communicating to all FBI employees that they should respect the attorney general’s role, refrain from disclosing information about criminal investigations, avoid disparaging uncharged persons, and above all, not take unnecessary steps that could influence an election.”
NEW: Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein defends Russia investigation handling, hits back at James Comey. "I would never have allowed anyone to interfere with the investigation." https://t.co/RT7QVKxtn3 pic.twitter.com/toFYKGYdWU
— ABC News (@ABC) May 14, 2019
Rosenstein stuck by his decision to recommend Comey’s firing – however he dinged the White House for how it went down, citing “confusing explanations” and saying “If I had been the decision maker, the removal would have been handled very differently, with far more respect and far less drama.”
He added that President Trump “did not tell me what reasons to put in my memo.
“So I do not blame the former director for being angry,” said Rosenstein. “But now 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. That is disappointing. Speculating about souls is not a job for police and prosecutors. Generally, we base our opinions on eyewitness testimony.”
Rosenstein was referring to comments Comey made on a CNN Town Hall, telling host Anderson Cooper that Rosenstein was a person of accomplishment, but “not a person of strong character.“
James Comey says Rod Rosenstein is not a person of strong character. One thing to note: President Trump used Rosenstein's letter to justify firing Comey #ComeyTownHall https://t.co/UZQt5UgTLE pic.twitter.com/ngG3bBwr1g
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) May 10, 2019
Rosenstein responded on Monday, saying that his soul and character “are pretty much the same today as they were two years ago.”
Is that to say that he would gladly wear a wire to spy on President Trump as part of a scheme to remove him under the 25th Amendment? Would he also sign a bunch of FISA warrant renewals on Carter Page based on a political dossier the FBI couldn’t corroborate?
Who knows, but this Comey-Rosenstein spat been highly entertaining to say the least.