In President Donald Trump’s first speech after a New York Times story alleged Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had planned to surreptitiously record the commander in chief and explored the idea of invoking the 25th Amendment to have him removed from office, Trump talked of a “lingering stench” at the Department of Justice and promised more firings.
The remarks were made Friday, just hours after The Times published the article that suggested Rosenstein was willing to take measures that would be extraordinary for anyone in the Department of Justice, much less the deputy attorney general, against a sitting president.
“I want to tell you we have great people in the Department of Justice,” Trump told an audience in Springfield, Missouri, where he was campaigning for Josh Hawley, the Missouri attorney general challenging vulnerable Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill.
“We have great people. These are people — I really believe you take a poll, I’ve got to be at 95 percent,” he said.
“But we had some real bad ones — you’ve seen what’s happened at the FBI. They’re all gone.
“But there’s a lingering stench and we’re going to get rid of that, too,” he said.
In terms of the FBI, the message was unmistakable: Former Director James Comey, former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe as well as anti-Trump FBI agent Peter Strzok and bureau lawyer Lisa Page, have all been fired or left the Bureau.
And, as for the allegations leveled at Rosenstein by The Times, they’re pretty dire.
“The deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, suggested last year that he secretly record President Trump in the White House to expose the chaos consuming the administration, and he discussed recruiting cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Mr. Trump from office for being unfit,” the piece read.
“Mr. Rosenstein made these suggestions in the spring of 2017 when Mr. Trump’s firing of James B. Comey as F.B.I. director plunged the White House into turmoil. Over the ensuing days, the president divulged classified intelligence to Russians in the Oval Office, and revelations emerged that Mr. Trump had asked Mr. Comey to pledge loyalty and end an investigation into a senior aide.”
Rosenstein also reportedly “raised the idea of wearing a recording device, or ‘wire,’ as he put it, to secretly tape the president when he visited the White House. One participant asked whether Mr. Rosenstein was serious, and he replied animatedly that he was.”
Allies of Rosenstein said the comment was made in jest, and the deputy attorney general himself denied the gist of The Times’ article not once but twice.
“I will not further comment on a story based on anonymous sources who are obviously biased against the department and are advancing their own personal agenda,” a statement by Rosenstein included with the piece read. “But let me be clear about this: Based on my personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment.”
A later statement by Rosenstein was more specific: “I never pursued or authorized recording the president and any suggestion that I have ever advocated for the removal of the president is absolutely false,” he said Friday night, according to Forbes.
Will that end up saving Rosenstein? He has plenty of allies among Democrats, particularly Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer.
“This story must not be used as a pretext for the corrupt purpose of firing Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein in order install an official who will allow the president to interfere with the special counsel’s investigation,” Sen. Schumer said in a statement, according to Politico.
The statement also noted that other White House members, such as Defense Secretary James Mattis and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly “have been reported to say critical things of the president without being fired.”
Yes, well, neither of them apparently wanted to wear a “wire” to record the president as if he were a criminal suspect or invoke the 25th Amendment to remove him from office.
That’s quite a different thing entirely — and it leaves a stench President Trump may be eager to remove.
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