Rod Rosenstein Has Some Serious Explaining to Do

For the last two years, millions of Americans have come to view Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as a kind of national insurance policy. This assessment is now in need of revision.

Rosenstein is the guy who appointed Special Counsel Robert Mueller to investigate whether Russia tried to interfere in the 2016 election a week after President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. As the president rages on Twitter, Rosenstein is seen as the avatar of what one anonymous administration official called the “steady state” — the resistance to Trump from within.

Now there is a fresh account of what Rosenstein did and said after Trump fired Comey. According to a new book from Comey’s former deputy, Andrew McCabe, Rosenstein offered to wear a wire to surreptitiously record Trump and discussed invoking the 25th Amendment, whereby a majority of the Cabinet and the vice president would deem the president unable to carry out his constitutional duties.

Much of this has been reported before. In an interview with “60 Minutes,” McCabe makes clear that these were just ideas discussed and discarded during seven perilous days in May — just after Trump bragged to Russia’s foreign minister and ambassador about firing Comey and said that the pressure he faced from the Russia investigation had been “taken off.” McCabe now says that this boast, and Trump’s acknowledgment of his motivation for firing Comey in an interview with NBC News that same week, provided the legal basis to open an investigation into the president.

That’s debatable. But for the senior leadership of the FBI, at least, it’s understandable: They lost their leader in the middle of a probe into Russian interference in the election — and into the possibility that the president himself might be compromised. As McCabe tells the Atlantic in an interview this week, the Oval Office meeting with the Russians was only the latest in a string of “head-scratching, completely shocking events.” The case was building, and this was the last straw.
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