Washington, Apr 21: Rod Rosenstein, the US deputy attorney general, praised President Donald Trump last spring for backing the rule of law and commended the Constitution and American culture for protecting lawfulness. “I don’t think there’s any threat to the rule of law in America today,” he said at a celebration of the concept.
Rosenstein left unmentioned that he and other senior leaders at the department and the FBI were enduring Trump’s sustained attacks on law enforcement in both public and private. The president had demanded Rosenstein falsely claim responsibility for dismissing the bureau’s director and had toyed with firing the attorney general, prompting Rosenstein and the justice department’s No. 3 official to vow to quit if the termination happened.
The long-awaited report by the special counsel, Robert Mueller, released on Thursday painted a portrait of law enforcement leaders more fiercely under siege than previously known. They struggled to navigate Trump’s apparent disregard for their mission through a mix of threats to resign, quiet defiance and capitulation to some presidential demands.
Trump made good on some threats, forcing out attorney general Jeff Sessions the day after the midterm elections in November. The third-ranking justice department official, Rachel Brand, left three months before Rosenstein’s speech to become Walmart’s top lawyer. Rosenstein, who had an inside look at the investigation as its overseer and at Trump’s behaviour as a top political appointee, is himself set to depart.
He demanded that Comey publicly say that he was not under investigation, and he asked Dana Boente, who was briefly the acting attorney general before Sessions was confirmed in February 2017, to let him know whether the FBI was investigating the White House, according to the special counsel’s report.
After Trump fired James Comey as the director of the FBI, setting off a storm of criticism, he asked Rosenstein to give a news conference and say that the firing had been his idea. Rosenstein warned Trump that the news conference was a bad idea “because if the press asked him, he would tell the truth”, Mueller’s investigators wrote. Rosenstein proved to be deeply rattled during the chaotic days after Comey’s firing. He discussed the possibility of invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump as president and suggested that he secretly record Trump in the Oval Office, according to people briefed on the events. Rosenstein has denied their accounts .
Attorney General William Barr, who took office that month, appears to be trying to reset the relationship between the White House and the justice department. He has vowed to probe whether the Russia investigation was tainted by what he called unlawful “spying”.