Two can play that game. Four days after disgraced former FBI Director James Comey disparaged him as a man who allegedly lacks “sterling character,” former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein struck back by slamming the widely criticized former FBI head for being a “partisan pundit” out to hawk books and earn a petty buck.
“[T]he 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,” Rosenstein said Monday during a speech to the Greater Baltimore Committee.
“That is disappointing. Speculating about souls is not a job for police and prosecutors.”
During his most recent public appearance at a CNN-hosted town hall last week, the former FBI director unceremoniously took shots at Rosenstein for allegedly being Trump’s stooge.
“I think people like that, like Rod Rosenstein, who are people of accomplishment but not real sterling character, strong character, find themselves trapped,” he said to CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
“And then they start telling themselves a story to justify their being trapped which is, ‘Yeah, he’s awful but the country needs me,'” he added, referencing Rosenstein’s decision to remain with the Trump administration for so long despite the president’s alleged corruption.
The former AG only just recently stepped down following the conclusion of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian collusion by the president’s 2016 campaign.
The fact that Rosenstein was, it would appear, just trying to perform the duties of his job fairly and without favor seems to be anathema to Comey, perhaps because of his glaringly partisan thinking.
“People spend a lot of time debating whose side I was on, based on who seemed to benefit most from any individual decision,” Rosenstein reportedly added in his speech Monday. “But trying to infer partisan affiliation from law enforcement decisions is what you might call a category error. It uses the wrong frame of reference. That is because partisans evaluate things in terms of the immediate political impact, and cable TV pundits fill a lot of time by pretending there is always serious breaking news.”
Also keep in mind that Rosenstein, whom Comey appears to believe was Trump’s stooge, was the same man who assigned special counsel Mueller to investigate the president in the first place.
“As acting attorney general, I thought it was my responsibility to make sure that the Department of Justice would conduct an investigation that was independent both in fact and in perception, complete it expeditiously, hold perpetrators accountable if warranted by the facts and the law, and work with partner agencies to counter foreign agents and deter crime,” he said Monday.
“We achieved those goals,” he continued, though he added that “I disfavor special counsels.”
Rosenstein was also the same man who reportedly floated the idea of secretly recording the president and then invoking the 25th Amendment to forcibly remove him from office.
Stooges don’t act like that …
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) September 21, 2018
Conversely, he was the same man who recommended in a memo to the president in May of 2017 that the then-FBI director be fired for his poor handling of the Clinton investigation.
Speaking Monday about his recommendation, Rosenstein defended his memo but admitted that the president could have handled the termination differently.
“If I had been the decision maker, the removal would have been handled very differently, with far more respect and far less drama,” he said. “So I do not blame the former director for being angry.”
“If I had been asked to make a recommendation before the removal decision was made, I would have included a more balanced analysis of the pros and cons. But my brief memo to the Attorney General is correct, and it was reasonable under the circumstances.”
The then-director’s termination was so sudden that at first thought it was a joke. Moreover, Trump didn’t directly inform him that he’d been fired. Instead, he learned about it from the news.
“One of the many great things about the F.B.I. is we have some hilarious pranksters in that organization, and so I thought it was a scam by someone on my staff,” Comey said last year, describing the moment when “Comey Resigns” back flashing on a television set as he was reportedly speaking with the bureau’s employees at its Los Angeles branch.
“So I turn to them and I said, ‘Someone put a lot of work into that.’ And then I continued talking.”
Rosenstein made it clear that his character was just fine: “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.”
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