Rod Rosenstein’s Unwanted ProminencePosted: May 25, 2017
Rod Rosenstein’s Unwanted Prominence
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus
From a long and distinguished career in Maryland where he was never known as a national figure, the nation’s second highest law enforcement official has suddenly risen to high prominence.
Rod Rosenstein served as a U.S. attorney in Maryland under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Selected to be second-in-command at the Justice Department by Trump appointee Jeff Sessions, Rosenstein found himself catapulted into unwanted attention when President Trump asked him for a letter providing his opinion of James Comey’s performance as Director of the FBI. His response, forthrightly criticizing the now-deposed head of the FBI, contains important perspective about Mr. Trump’s sudden decision to oust the FBI leader.
Rosenstein’s letter stated rather bluntly that Comey’s handling of the Bureau’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s careless transmissions of sensitive email had compromised the Bureau’s “reputation and credibility.” It was wrong and without precedent for the FBI Director to announce his personal conclusion after the investigation and to further claim that “the case should be closed without prosecution.” What the FBI Director should have said, claimed Rosenstein, was that “the FBI had completed its investigation and presented its findings to federal prosecutors.” It was only their job either to proceed or close down the case.
Additional damaging perspective from the Deputy Attorney General stated that Comey “ignored another longstanding principle: we do not hold press conferences to release derogatory information about the subject of a declined criminal investigation.” He then termed as a serious mistake Comey’s late October letter to Congress announcing discovery of even more transmissions of classified material on the former Secretary of State’s unsecured computer. Comey sent a letter to Congress about this new discovery less than two weeks before Election Day 2016. Hillary Clinton has claimed that the letter and publicity about it cost her the election. “Silence,” said Rosenstein in his letter, would not have been concealment; it would have been following “long-standing policy that we refrain from publicizing non-public information.”
In short, claimed Rosenstein, it was not Comey’s role to publicly state that Mrs. Clinton had been “extremely careless.” And the FBI leader violated long-standing FBI policy to refrain from issuing conclusions about a matter under investigation.
During his career, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein has always been known as a completely apolitical public servant. He neither knew nor wanted to know whether individuals he dealt with were conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat. When directed by a President – his ultimate superior – to produce a letter citing his opinion of Comey’s performance, he did so. That the letter became President Trump’s ammunition in his decision to oust the FBI Director was not Rosenstein’s intention.
A completely separate question now remains. Was the firing of James Comey, whom Mr. Trump had previously praised for his competence, done to deflect attention away from the ongoing investigation of possible Russian influence in the 2016 presidential contest? Mr. Trump’s extremely brief letter firing James Comey contained the seemingly extraneous assertion: “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation….” That comment in the middle of the letter ousting James Comey may have done exactly what it was intended not to do: add fuel to the fire about possible Russian collusion in the election. That matter is no longer on the front pages or dominating news broadcasts.
We can only hope that time will tell either that there is nothing to the rumors about Russian meddling or that there is plenty of fire that had already generated a considerable amount of smoke, maybe even enough to bring a sitting President down.
Mr. McManus served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the late 1950s and joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966. He has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and President. Mr. McManus has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs and is also author of a number of educational DVDs and books. Now President Emeritus, he continues his involvement with the Society through public speaking and writing for this blog, the JBS Bulletin, and The New American.