Former key figure in the Mueller Probe, Rod Rosenstein, tore into former FBI Director James Comey at a recent event, slamming Comey’s turn as a “partisan pundit,” reiterating that he deserved to be fired, and faulting him for trampling “bright lines that should never be crossed.”
Rosenstein formally stepped aside as deputy attorney general on March 10. His speech specifically took aim at Comey’s comments earlier this month implying that Rosenstein and Attorney General Bill Barr lacked the “inner strength” to “resist the compromises necessary to survive Mr. Trump.”
Comey also derided Rosenstein’s “character” and suggested his “soul” had been consumed “in small bites.” The former FBI boss, who has taken to posting numerous photographs of himself in nature staring wistfully at trees and roadways since leaving public office, had been showered with media attention in recent months, and, according to Fox News, his memoir earned him over $2 million.
Rosenstein’s View of Comey Changed
Not too long ago Rosenstein had said that he “did not dislike” and even “admired” Comey, but even then he asserted that the former FBI head’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation in 2016 was a grievous and defining professional error.
“The clearest mistake was the director’s decision to hold a press conference about an open case, reveal his recommendation and discuss details about the investigation, without the consent of the prosecutors and the attorney general,” Rosenstein said. “Then, he chose to send a letter to the Congress on the eve of the election stating that one of the candidates was under criminal investigation, expecting it to be released immediately to the public.”
Comey later justified those actions, in which he had said that “no reasonable prosecutor” would charge Clinton, even though he said she had been “extremely careless” in handling classified information — because he felt that then Attorney General Loretta Lynch – had compromised the DOJ’s appearance of impartiality by allowing Bill Clinton to meet her privately on an airport tarmac, while the investigation was ongoing.
But, Rosenstein dismissed that rational and went on to say, “those actions were not within the range of reasonable decisions. 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.”
It was Rosenstein who drafted the memo to President Trump recommending that Comey be fired. Rosenstein said that the memo was “reasonable under the circumstances.”
Still, Rosenstein sounded a note of sympathy for the manner in which Comey was fired. The ex-FBI director reportedly learned of his fate from TV reports.
During his recent speech in front of the Greater Baltimore Committee (GBC), Rosenstein responded directly to Comey’s criticisms of him, saying, “My soul and character are pretty much the same today as they were two years ago. 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. And thanks to them, I think I made the right calls on the things that mattered.”
The GBC is a nonprofit association of business leaders that Rosenstein has credited with helping law enforcement, including when he was a U.S. Attorney.