I mentioned this in the thread on the Memo but it’s important enough to warrant its own post. The media keeps claiming that the point of the Memo from Trump’s perspective is presenting the public with a reason to fire Rosenstein, as he’d reportedly like to do.
Does this clip point to which way he’s leaning on that?
As the man himself says, you figure that one out.
— POLITICO (@politico) February 2, 2018
As the dust settles from Memo Bowl I, the suspense will shift to whether Rosenstein is fired and/or Chris Wray resigns. Wray, I think, will stay, especially if the Memo comes to be seen as an own-goal by House Republicans in suggesting that the dossier *isn’t* the original basis for the probe. Rosenstein, though? I don’t know. POTUS is itching to make an example of someone at Justice to signal his displeasure over the investigation but he’s running out of targets. He already fired Comey. He doesn’t want to fire Wray, who only joined the Bureau a few months ago and whose termination would mean a third FBI director in less than a year. McCabe is on his way out already. Firing Sessions might make him feel good but it won’t change anything about Russiagate. And firing Mueller would lead to political nuclear war.
There’s only one man who plays a major role in the investigation *and* whose firing would be (a little) short of apocalyptic. That’s Rosenstein. Is he on his way out? Here’s an awfully interesting answer from Orrin Hatch when he was asked about that this morning:
Sen. Orrin Hatch says he has confidence in Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein but said Trump may have to get rid of him if he becomes too controversial and can’t oversee the investigation.
— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) February 2, 2018
If “controversy” is the bar Trump needs to clear to justify firing Rosenstein, he’s already cleared it. The Memo has created all of the controversy POTUS could want and more. Even without the Memo, the beauty of “controversy” as grounds for dismissal is that you can set the bar anywhere you like. In theory, Rosenstein could have been dismissed months ago because it’s “controversial” that, as a potential witness in the obstruction case against POTUS per his role in Comey’s firing, he hasn’t recused himself from the probe. Now Trump has a Memo that names Rosenstein — although only once, in passing — for his role in perpetuating the supposed “witch hunt” of Russiagate. If the president wants to claim that public confidence in Rosenstein’s ability to lead the investigation impartially has been fatally compromised, he already has some ammo to do that and probably won’t get much more. So what’s he waiting for?
One thing I don’t understand: Since, as expected, the Memo seems very persuasive to those who are already on Team Trump and not so persuasive to those who aren’t, how does it change the calculus for him in justifying Rosenstein’s firing? He could have fired Rosenstein a month ago, before the Memo was on anyone’s radar, and the same people who approve or disapprove of the firing now would have approved or disapproved of it then. The Memo gives him something concrete he can point to, as though he’s been suddenly persuaded that Rosenstein is a problem rather than having nursed a grudge against Rosenstein for months for appointing Mueller, but it’s not going to change anyone’s mind about the propriety of the firing, particularly since Rosenstein doesn’t figure heavily in Nunes’s argument. So, again, why wait? If he’s going to do it, he might as well take the plunge.
Update: Storm clouds are gathering…
BREAKING: White House: GOP memo `raises serious concerns’ about `integrity of decisions’ at FBI, Justice Department.
— The Associated Press (@AP) February 2, 2018