Conflicting report questions if Rosenstein ordered Trump-appointed US attorney to recuse himself from Cohen case

New reports claim Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who made the call to give the Michael Cohen case to federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, is also responsible for ordering the U.S. attorney appointed to that post by President Donald Trump to recuse himself from the case.

The accusation, reported by Wired Sources and the New York Post, contradicts what ABC News reported in April.

From ABC News:

Berman was not involved in the decision to raid Cohen’s office because of the recusal, two sources familiar with the matter tell ABC News.

The recusal was approved by senior Justice Department officials who report to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the sources said. Rosenstein himself was notified of the recusal after the decision was made.

 

In an article published Saturday, New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin wrote: “The US attorney Trump appointed for that outpost, Geoffrey Berman, reportedly was ordered to recuse himself by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, leaving the office staffed mostly by holdovers from Preet Bharara’s tenure.”

The recusal left the office staffed mostly by holdovers from former prosecutor Preet Bharara’s tenure, according to Goodwin — Bharara being an Obama appointee fired by Trump.

“Bharara was fired by Trump when he refused to resign and is cheering for Trump’s fall,” Goodwin adds. “Meanwhile, his former colleagues made the politically charged demand that [Michael] Cohen accuse the president of criminal behavior in his own plea documents, illustrating how Cohen is a pawn and Trump is the real target.”

https://twitter.com/WiredSources/status/1033761288843943936

Goodwin also noted that with Lanny Davis, “a decades-long friend, lawyer and fixer to Bill and Hillary Clinton… serving as Cohen’s lawyer, the Clinton machine is effectively directing much of the assault on the president.”

And in turning the Cohen case over to New York, Rosentein assured that if special counsel Robert Mueller is fired by President Trump, the investigation will continue.

…with oversight from Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller as special counsel.

More from Bloomberg:

Rosenstein oversees all U.S. attorneys. The New York office has to consult Rosenstein on any significant actions, and he could intervene to stop or alter activities. Historically, though, the U.S. attorney for SDNY has operated with a great deal of independence. Prosecutors working for the New York office and Mueller’s team are free to share information back-and-forth. […]

Rosenstein made the decision to give the Cohen case to SDNY following a referral from Mueller. That also ensured the investigation could continue even if Trump somehow managed to fire the special counsel, a politically dangerous move that many Republicans have warned the president to avoid.

 

All of which may, or may not, add credence to the president’s assertion last week that Attorney General Jeff Sessions never took control of the Justice Department.

Here’s a sampling of responses to this development from Twitter:

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Tom Tillison

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