Rod Rosenstein (AP/Patrick Semansky)

Democrats: Firing Rod Rosenstein would ignite constitutional crisis

Leakers say the deputy attorney general is "at peace" with the possibility that he may be fired shortly


Nicole Karlis
April 13, 2018 8:48PM (UTC)

It’s Friday the 13th, which means the strange parallel universe that exists solely behind the front gate of the White House could be getting even stranger. Indeed, NBC has reported that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has been whispering to confidants that he’s about to get axed. Reports regarding Rosenstein’s termination have been floating around all week, but if Rosenstein is coming to terms with an impending reality, it’s possible that the public should be, too.

According to the report:

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“In those conversations, he has repeated the phrase, "Here I stand," a reference to Martin Luther's famous quote, "Here I stand, I can do no other." Coincidentally, former FBI Director James Comey, whom Rosenstein fired, repeated the same phrase to President George W. Bush in a conversation that has been widely reported and that Comey describes in his forthcoming book.

One source who spoke to Rosenstein said he seemed fully aware he may soon lose his job and was at peace with the possibility, confident he had done his job with integrity.

Rosenstein has said in recent private conversations that history will prove he did the right thing by firing Comey in May 2017, claiming that the American people do not have all the facts about what led to his decision to write the memo that led to Comey's dismissal, the sources said.

NBC added that the sources claim he’s been less anxious than he has in the past when he received public criticism. If Rosenstein is fired, Solicitor General Noel Francisco could replace him and oversee Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. Alternatively, Trump could choose a replacement from anyone who has been confirmed by the Senate.

CNN reported yesterday that the White House is preparing “talking points” to undermine Rosenstein’s credibility. The Justice Department declined to comment. The report claimed that the talking points are still in “preliminary form” and “not yet finalized.”

Rosenstein’s firing appears to be related to backlash from Mueller’s encroaching probe. Indeed, the White House was reportedly rattled by the recent raid on the office of Michael Cohen, Trump's erstwhile lawyer.

A source told CNN that Trump will be “pissed about it until he dies.” Trump shared his anger on Twitter, using one of his favorite turns-of-phrase, "witch hunt," to refer to the ongoing investigation that has ensnared many of his close confidants:

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As my colleague Matt Rozsa explained, firing Rosenstein would give Trump the advantage of avoiding the firestorm that would ensue if he fired Mueller directly. Thus, by firing Rosenstein Trump could replace him with someone who could stop the special counsel from digging into areas of the president's life that he would rather not be investigated.

“Although the various legal rationales that Trump could use to justify firing Rosenstein are flimsy — a consensus view among all but the most rabid pro-Trump artisans — politically speaking, the move could give Trump what he has long wanted: Protection from any investigation into his conduct,” Rozsa wrote.

Yet if Trump fires Rosenstein, it could wreak political and constitutional havoc — giving fresh ammunition to Democrats and progressives, who have been vocal about the possibility of Rosenstein's ouster and the corruption it would imply.

"This weekend, Not One Penny is planning 100 events across the country to hold Republicans responsible for their tax law that lines the pockets of the wealthy, but if Trump fires Rod Rosenstein, we are facing a constitutional crisis,” spokesperson Tim Hogan of Not One Penny, a California-based progressive tax organization, told Salon. “Americans from across the country will take to the streets to send one clear message: Donald Trump is not above the law and the people will hold him and every complicit GOP member of Congress accountable."

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also recently told reporters that such a firing would ignite a “constitutional crisis.”

“If Rosenstein or Mueller gets fired, it will be the clearest signal yet that Trump is willing to trigger a Constitutional crisis to save himself. Nixon tried the same move in 1973, and ten months later he was out of office. The Democratic base is passionate and energized, and any move against Rosenstein or Mueller will only strengthen our determination to take back Congress and bring this corrupt, colluding White House to heal.”

John G. Vigna, the Communications Director of the California Democratic Party, told Salon such a move would not bode well with the Democratic base.

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“If Rosenstein or Mueller gets fired, it will be the clearest signal yet that Trump is willing to trigger a Constitutional crisis to save himself," Vigna said. "Nixon tried the same move in 1973, and ten months later he was out of office. The Democratic base is passionate and energized, and any move against Rosenstein or Mueller will only strengthen our determination to take back Congress and bring this corrupt, colluding White House to heal.”

Only time will tell — though we may have our answer by the end of day today. Trump has previously been fond of Friday night firings.


Nicole Karlis

Nicole Karlis is a news writer at Salon. She covers health, science, tech and gender politics. Tweet her @nicolekarlis.

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