The memo: An opening for Trump to fire Rod Rosenstein

Devin Nunes' memo was finally released Friday — just as Republican support for the deputy attorney general wanes

By Jeremy Binckes

Published February 2, 2018 1:14PM (EST)

 (AP/Evan Vucci)
(AP/Evan Vucci)

With the Friday release of the infamous Nunes Memo, it's clear that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's job is likely in jeopardy.

Just as Republican support for the deputy attorney general is waning, Nunes' memo landed, albeit with a thud. Among other things, it confirmed that intelligence agencies were aware of George Papadopoulos' connections to Russian sources – ultimately leading the FBI to open a probe into the Trump campaign in July 2016.

Nunes' memo also served its partisan purpose. It provided an excuse for President Donald Trump to fire Rosenstein, the only man who can fire special counsel Robert Mueller.

Trump told reporters on Friday that the memo was "a disgrace what's happening in our country. . . A lot of people should be ashamed of themselves, and much worse than that."

Trump also hinted that he will use the memo as an excuse to fire Rosenstein, telling Reporters, "You'll figure that one out."

Hours earlier, Trump went on Twitter to rail against the "leadership" of the FBI and Department of Justice.

Were Trump to fire Rosenstein and set up a slow-motion redux of the 1973 Midnight Massacre, the only question would be if congressional Republicans would stop him. That answer, at least at first, seems to be, no.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, one of the top-ranking Republicans in the Senate, told reporters on Friday that, essentially, he would look the other way if Trump fired Rosenstein because he became too "controversial," according to CNN reporter Shimon Prokupecz. That may have given Trump a big opening for how to go about achieving the goal.

NPR's Carrie Johnson reported that Democratic leaders in Congress rushed to respond to Trump's potential move against Rosenstein. In a letter sent to the White House on Friday, Democrats warned Trump that "Firing Rod Rosenstein, DOJ Leadership, or Bob Mueller could result in a constitutional crisis of the kind not seen since the Saturday Night Massacre. "

Before the memo's release, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., blasted the Nunes memo, referring to it only as "partisan attacks on the FBI and the Department of Justice":

The latest attacks on the FBI and Department of Justice serve no American interests – no party’s, no president’s, only Putin’s. The American people deserve to know all of the facts surrounding Russia’s ongoing efforts to subvert our democracy, which is why Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation must proceed unimpeded. Our nation’s elected officials, including the president, must stop looking at this investigation through the warped lens of politics and manufacturing partisan sideshows. If we continue to undermine our own rule of law, we are doing Putin’s job for him.

The FBI Agents Association also weighed in, calling it again "partisan politics," and saying that the memo would not "distract us from our mission."

Now, it's in Trump's hands. And the president, possibly taking his cues from Fox News host Sean Hannity, may set about a drastic re-shaping of the judiciary in order to protect himself. Only time will tell.

Jeremy Binckes

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Devin Nunes Donald Trump Gop Nunes Memo Republicans Trump-russia Investigation