On the same day Donald Trump called his deputy attorney general’s letter about James Comey a “recommendation” for termination, Rod Rosenstein told senators in private that he assembled the document at the president’s request only after Trump decided to fire the FBI director.
Trump, his White House aides, and reports about Rosenstein’s own recollections have produced conflicting narratives of Rosenstein’s role in Comey’s dismissal. The aides initially said the Justice Department was integral in prompting Trump to act—which the president rebutted soon after, telling NBC News he was determined to fire the FBI chief, regardless. Subsequent reports indicated that Rosenstein was upset the decision was pinned on him.
But Trump clouded the waters again on Thursday during a press conference with the Colombian president. Without mentioning it as his rationale, he called Rosenstein’s letter a “recommendation.”
“I actually thought when I made that decision—and I also got a very, very strong recommendation, as you know, from the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein—but when I made that decision, I actually thought that it would be a bipartisan decision, because you look at all of the people on the Democratic side, not only the Republican side, they were saying such terrible things about Director Comey,” Trump said. “Then he had the very poor performance on Wednesday. That was a poor, poor performance. So poor, in fact, that I believe—and you’d have to ask him, because I don’t like to speak for other people—but I believe that’s why the deputy attorney general went out and wrote his very, very strong letter.”
Rosenstein, however, said behind closed doors he wrote it because he was asked to—and that it was not a recommendation, according to testimony published in the press.
“On May 8, I learned that President Trump intended to remove Director Comey and sought my advice and input. Notwithstanding my personal affection for Director Comey, I thought I was appropriate to seek a new leader,” he stated, according to the text.
Later: “My memorandum is not a finding of official misconduct; the Inspector General will render his judgment about that issue in due course. My memorandum is not a statement of reasons to justify a for-cause termination.”
Rosenstein stands to be shielded from the full brightness of the political spotlight moving forward, after former FBI chief Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel to oversee the Justice department’s inquiry into allegations of collusion between the Trump team and Russia.
This post originally appeared on Weekly Standard