Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein threatened to resign after he was portrayed by the White House as the catalyst for President Trump’s decision to fire James Comey as FBI director.
The Washington Post reported the bombshell development Wednesday night.
Rosenstein, who took office on April 26, wrote a letter on Tuesday to his boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, recommending that Comey be fired for his handling of the Clinton email investigation.
Sessions informed Trump in a letter of his own that he accepted Rosenstein’s recommendation. Trump also accepted, and Comey was gone.
Ironically given Trump’s and Sessions’ views on Clinton, Rosenstein argued in his letter that Comey was unfair to Clinton during the investigation. He also took issue with Comey’s decision to announce in a public press conference that he would not be recommending charges against the Democratic party nominee.
Starting after Comey’s firing and into Wednesday, the White House repeatedly pointed to Rosenstein’s recommendation as the impetus for Trump’s move. But information leaking out of the White House quickly made it clear that it was Trump’s desire to have Comey removed from office that led Rosenstein to write the letter.
Comey’s fate was settled during a Monday night meeting between Trump, Sessions and Rosenstein. As The Post reports, the Justice Department officials “quickly fulfilled the boss’s orders” to come up with a rationale for canning Comey.
As the White House continued to push its version of the firing decision, Rosenstein bristled at how his role in the coup was being portrayed. According to The Post:
Rosenstein threatened to resign after the narrative emerging from the White House on Tuesday evening cast him as a prime mover of the decision to fire Comey and that the president acted only on his recommendation, said the person close to the White House, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
It is unclear why Rosenstein stopped short of resigning, though the White House has since done a complete 180 on its timeline of how the firing unfolded.
On Wednesday night, the White House press office acknowledged that Trump has long been frustrated with Comey’s behavior. In a press release, the press office admitted that Trump’s anger peaked last week, just after Comey testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about both the Russia investigation and the one involving Clinton’s emails.
Trump is said to have been upset that Comey did not declare that there is no evidence supporting the allegations that Trump advisers colluded with the Russian government during the campaign.
The Republican was also reportedly bothered by Comey’s statement that he felt “mildly nauseous” that his decision to re-open the Clinton email investigation in late October may have influenced the outcome of the election. The statement suggested, in Trump’s eyes, that external factors were responsible for his victory.
Other reports out Wednesday cast further doubt on the White House’s explanation for Trump’s firing decision. The Wall Street Journal reported that Comey had become more involved in the Russia investigation in recent weeks as more evidence emerged pointing to the possibility of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government.
And according to Democratic senators, Comey said he had recently requested more resources from Rosenstein to conduct the investigation.