Donald Trump reportedly wants to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to as a way to cripple Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. It’s one of several options Trump is considering to stop the investigation, but CNN is reporting that it’s the choice at the top of the list.
Some of Trump’s legal advisers are telling him they now have a stronger case against Rosenstein. They believe Rosenstein crossed the line in what he can and cannot pursue. And they consider him conflicted since he is a potential witness in the special counsel’s investigation because he wrote the memo that justified firing former FBI Director James Comey.
Trump’s anger at Rosenstein goes back at least to the moment when Rosenstein appointed Mueller. For Trump, the fact that Rosenstein authored the letter used to justify the dismissal of FBI Director James Comey, made the appointment of Mueller—which was done at least partly to look into obstruction—made Mueller’s appointment an act of betrayal. The fact that Rosenstein was forced to write his letter, after an initial memo from Trump and Stephen Miller was judged to be both inflammatory and obvious obstruction, doesn’t weigh into Trump’s thinking.
Recent word that Rosenstein both expanded Mueller’s power to look into Paul Manafort, and was at least aware of the raid on Michael Cohen’s files, has drawn Trump’s attention back to the Deputy AG. By firing Rosenstein, Trump would leave Mueller with nowhere to go if he needed approval on any action beyond his current writ, and would open the slot for putting in someone who could dismiss the Special Counsel.
The legal advisers also believe they have successfully argued to the American public that the FBI is tainted and think they can make the same case against Rosenstein.
Trump has wanted to get rid of Rosenstein for some time, and now he believes that he’s spent enough time weakening the FBI and DOJ that he can get away with it. Just Rosenstein is a life-long Republican, just because Trump appointed him, doesn’t mean Trump can’t call him a Democrat now.
If it has seemed that Republicans have been very reluctant to talk about anything they might do if Trump interferes with the investigation, that’s because they are in on the plans.
A senior administration official said the White House has been discussing potential options with key congressional Republican leaders, fearful of “blindsiding them.” A person familiar with the conversations says a top congressional Republican advised the White House not to fire Rosenstein.
All Trump needs to make this move now … is something to distract the public. Despite claims that he was staying in Washington to direct actions in Syria, something else is a the top of his agenda.
The President, who had already shortened his itinerary for a planned trip to South America and had been grumbling to aides that he had to go at all, is staying behind in Washington in part to decide his next steps on potential changes at the Justice Department, according to a source.