Rosenstein briefed lawmakers on the events leading up to Comey’s dismissal on May 9, as well as his decision on Wednesday to appoint a special counsel to lead the FBI’s probe into Russia’s election interference and whether Trump’s campaign team was complicit.
In that memo – which the White House initially used as the justification for Comey’s firing, before Trump later admitted he had made up his mind well before that – Rosenstein outlined reasons why Comey should be terminated, namely his handling of the investigation into Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s private email server nearly a year ago.
Comey is known to produce memos documenting especially sensitive or unsettling encounters, such as after the February meeting. “His speeches about leadership and public service inspired me”.
But Rosenstein said a memo he wrote sharply criticizing Comey’s handling of the probe into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server was a “candid internal memorandum” that wasn’t intended as “a statement of reasons to justify” the director’s dismissal. “I stand by it”, Rosenstein underscored.
“I wrote it. I believe it”.
The day after that seminar, on October 28, Comey disclosed to Congress that the bureau was continuing its investigation of Clinton’s emails in light of new evidence.
The statement was first delivered to Senate lawmakers on Thursday and to House lawmakers during a similar briefing on Friday. “Among the concerns that I recall were to restore the credibility of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, respect the established authority of the Department of Justice, limit public statements and eliminate leaks”. Initially, the administration had claimed that the president had terminated Comey’s employment based exclusively upon a recommendation from the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Rosenstein also told senators that he was “not aware” of a request Comey made for additional resources for the Russian Federation investigation shortly before his firing. The adviser under scrutiny is not named, but described as someone close to Trump. He was “very guarded”, an unnamed Republican representative told CNN.
Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton of MA echoed that sentiment, saying there was “considerable frustration” and that “he refused to answer a lot of questions”. This appeared to challenge initial White House statements citing that memo as rationale for the firing – though Trump has acknowledged he planned to fire Comey regardless of any recommendation. At the same time, the timeline he provided makes clear that Rosenstein did not initiate the process in the final phase – as senators said after Thursday’s briefing.
A day after the memo came out, Trump also said he’d previously made that decision.
In the remarks, Rosenstein said he learned a day before Comey’s firing that Trump wanted to dismiss him. McCaskill thinks Mueller will be given significant space to investigate alleged ties to Russian Federation or obstruction of justice on the part of Trump.
He denied media reports from last week that Comey had asked him for additional resources for his investigation before Trump fired him. Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe has also testified he wasn’t aware of any such request.
The appointment of the special counsel indicates other believe that’s still open to question. Rosenstein denounced that decision as “profoundly wrong and unfair”.
“There was considerable frustration in the room”, said Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., a member of the Armed Services Committee. “It renewed my confidence that we should have no confidence in this Administration”. “This is a fight for the soul of our democracy”, he added. “We can not afford to lose this one”.