WASHINGTON (AP) — The author of a scathing memo that the White House used to justify the firing of FBI director James Comey is the same man overseeing a Justice Department investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein wrote a three-page rebuke of Comey’s conduct in which Rosenstein said the FBI director had usurped the attorney general’s authority last year when he announced that the FBI was closing its investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email as secretary of state. Rosenstein added that Comey’s behavior was “a textbook example of what federal prosecutors and agents are taught not to do.”
Rosenstein, a veteran prosecutor, said the FBI was “unlikely to regain public and congressional trust until it has a director who understands the gravity of the mistakes” and promises not to repeat them.
President Donald Trump said he fired Comey in part based on the memo, titled “Restoring Public Confidence in the FBI.”
But the sharply worded memo could add to concern among some Democrats about conflicts with the Russia probe. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from any Trump-Russia investigation in March after the Justice Department acknowledged he had spoken twice with the Russian ambassador last year and had failed to disclose the contacts during his Senate confirmation process. Sessions said he had not tried to mislead anyone but could have been more careful in his answers. He later filed amended testimony.
The attorney general’s recusal handed authority for an investigation to an acting deputy, and then to Rosenstein once he was confirmed last month.
Rosenstein was appointed top federal prosecutor in Maryland by President George W. Bush and remained in the post for the entire Obama administration. That staying power, extraordinary for a position that routinely turns over with changes in the White House, lends weight to the reputation he’s cultivated as an apolitical law enforcement official.
He arrived at the main Justice Department with experience in politically freighted investigations, having earlier in his career been part of the Clinton-era Whitewater independent investigation. More recently as U.S. attorney, he oversaw the probe of James Cartwright, the former Joint Chiefs of Staff vice chairman who admitted making false statements during a separate leak investigation and was ultimately pardoned by Obama.
“He is so well-respected. He cannot be influenced, he cannot be bought, he cannot be pressured because of outside political forces,” Baltimore criminal defense attorney Steven Silverman, who has known Rosenstein for years, said when Rosenstein was picked to be deputy attorney general.
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