On Thursday morning, CNN reported that President Trump is looking for ways to “discredit the Russia investigation,” with an eye toward perhaps firing the DOJ official overseeing it — Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
The news about Trump’s displeasure with the deputy AG comes on the heels of reports that Trump tried to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller last June, just weeks after he fired then-FBI Director Comey, who at the time was overseeing the bureau’s Russia investigation — like Rosenstein is now.
If Trump fired Rosenstein, he would be able to appoint a new deputy AG who could fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller and therefore bring the FBI’s Russia investigation to a close. Short of firing, Rosenstein’s replacement could sharply limit the scope of Mueller’s investigation and prevent his final report from being released publicly.
The only entity that could prevent Trump from getting away with it is Congress, which ultimately has the power to impeach him.
So it’s significant that on Tuesday, Rep. James Comer (R-KY) went on CNN and said he would have no qualms if Trump decided to remove Rosenstein.
At first, Comer — a member of the House Oversight Committee — tried to dodge the question. He began his response by saying, “well, what you have to understand is, the American people wanted an outsider, they wanted someone who had no experience in politics.”
But pressed to answer the question, Comer ultimately said he’d support whatever decision Trump makes.
“Well, the president has the ability to fire his at-will employees, so if the president fired Rosenstein, I would support that,” Comer said. “I think that there are a lot of people in American — especially in my district of Kentucky — that are disappointed int he attorney general and Rosenstein, and you know, if there is something there with Russia, then let’s get it out… this whole Russia investigation has been a big distraction.”
While Comer at least acknowledged that the question of Rosenstein’s future needs to be viewed in the broader context of Trump’s unhappiness about the Russia investigation, other Republicans are playing dumb about it.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, for instance, seems to think that Trump’s concerns about Rosenstein are unrelated to the Russia investigation. Asked whether he supports the release of a Republican memo that criticizes the FBI’s handling of the Russia investigation on Tuesday, Ryan said, “This is a completely separate matter from Bob Mueller’s investigation, and his investigation should be allowed to take its course.”
But Ryan apparently isn’t on the same page with Trump. Nor is he in agreement with Comer, who thinks that Trump, as president, has the authority to kneecap the Russia investigation if he so chooses.