Rod Rosenstein: Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump wanted James Comey gone

Jeff Sessions was Senator at the time he and Rosenstein discussed "the need for new leadership at the FBI"

By Matthew Rozsa

Published May 19, 2017 1:18PM (EDT)

 (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)
(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

When Rod Rosenstein was being confirmed as deputy attorney general, his critics were concerned about whether he could impartially lead an investigation into alleged collusion between President Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign and the Russian government. Part of the reason was that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had recently recused himself from the investigation.

Now it turns out that, before Sessions became attorney general, he and Rosenstein had already decided the man leading the investigation within the FBI needed to be fired.

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According to Rosenstein's prepared remarks for his closed-door briefing before members of the House of Representatives and Senates, the future deputy attorney general writes that "in one of my first meetings with then-Senator Jeff Sessions last winter, we discussed the need for new leadership at the FBI." Among the "concerns" discussed by the two men were the need to "limit public statements and eliminate leaks."

Earlier in the memo, Rosenstein detailed why he thought Comey's public statement about Hillary Clinton's email scandal in July was "profoundly wrong and unfair both to the Department of Justice and Secretary Clinton." He also harshly criticized Comey's decision to announce his reopening of the Clinton email investigation less than two weeks before the election on the grounds that it "usurped the authority of the Department of Justice, by sending the letter over the objection of the Department of Justice; flouted rules and deeply ingrained traditions; and guaranteed that some people would accuse the FBI of interfering in the election."

Rosenstein then discussed how, when he learned that Trump wanted to fire Comey and asked for Rosenstein's input, "I wrote a brief memorandum summarizing my longstanding concerns about Director Comey's public statements concerning the Secretary Clinton email investigation."

He added, "I chose the issues to include in my memorandum."

Rosenstein reiterated that he stands by his memorandum, then closes his remarks by adding that he is "not aware" of any request by the FBI to receive additional resources for the Russia investigation.

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Donald Trump James Comey Jeff Sessions Partner Video Rod Rosenstein