Whoever replaces Comey needs to satisfy Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein

This is just my opinion, but the widely expressed view that Trump fired Comey in order to shut down the Russia investigation seems to overstate Comey’s role in an investigation that in his absence still proceeds.

The reports of Trump screaming at television coverage of the investigation, do not suggest that he is in the midst of a carefully crafted cover-up.

Most importantly, having publicly deferred to the judgement of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — as did Attorney General Jeff Sessions — Trump has effectively handed a veto to Rosenstein when it comes to the choice of Comey’s replacement.

By all appearances, Rosenstein’s allegiances are strictly constitutional and institutional. If Trump’s choice for a new FBI director appears tainted in any way and if this is not an individual of unquestionable independence and integrity, it seems reasonable to expect that Rosenstein will be shooting off another memo.

Who knows? If he objects to Trump’s choice, maybe Rosenstein would even have the guts to do something virtually unheard of in this era: resign on a matter of principle.

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  1. “Trump has effectively handed a veto to Rosenstein…” I fear you may be leaning too heavily on rationality in this judgment. Surely from Trump’s point-of-view Rosenstein is just the useful idiot of the week, and the method of use-and-betray applies to him as well.

    The natural counter would be that Trump can’t touch Rosenstein, who’s being idolized as Mr. Clean. This week! Trump has never been constrained before, so why now, particularly when the threat of exposure looms every closer? He’s got to block the FBI investigation and will do whatever comes to mind.

  2. Paul Woodward says:

    Sure, Trump can fire Rosenstein, but who’s going to provide the memo to justify that? And if Rosenstein was to resign, Trump and Sessions would thereby lose their last shred of credibility.

    If this is really all about shutting down the investigation, Trump has to pick an FBI director whose loyalty he can count on. But loyalty and independence are mutually exclusive.

    Whether or not Rosenstein has enough backbone to defy Trump, I have no idea.

    If it’s true that Rosenstein wrote his memo because he was complying with directions from above, then the glowing reviews has had previously turn out to have been without merit.

    He needs to testify in Congress and give a full account of how this actually played out.

  3. My guess would be that Trump will not need to fire Rosenstein, who was called forth from obscurity to perform a function, and having performed it, will likely recede back into the bureaucratic shadow world.

    A background question, which I consider to be deeply puzzling, is why Trump’s one strategy — use-and-betray — works so well, over and over. Here’s a conjecture about one dimension of it: the mere fact of being publicly used gives Trump sufficient leverage to betray. Comey was ejected on the grounds, essentially, that he had helped Trump! Should Rosenstein make any noises in future, Trump would presumably not hesitate to point out that he Rosenstein had already compromised himself by writing that horrible, goofy, very bad memo.

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