Former acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told FBI investigators with Robert Mueller’s office that he’d considered appointing a special counsel prior to President Trump’s May 2017 firing of FBI Director James Comey.
Rosenstein made this admission during a May 23, 2017, interview just one week after his May 17, 2017, appointment of Mueller in the wake of Comey being terminated by the president on May 9, 2017. The deputy attorney general, who oversaw the Justice Department’s Trump-Russia investigation following Attorney General Jeff Sessions recusing himself, contacted Mueller the next morning, on May 10, 2017, telling investigators, “of course” he’d considered the issue of appointing a special counsel even before then.
Rosenstein detailed a May 8, 2017, Oval Office evening meeting between himself, Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, White House counsel Don McGahn, Sessions, Sessions’s chief of staff Jody Hunt, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, and others centered around Comey, telling investigators, “I knew when I left, Director Comey would be fired.” Rosenstein was tasked with writing a memo detailing his concerns with the bureau’s leader and spent the evening and the next morning putting it together with help from staff members including his chief of staff James Crowell and deputy chief of staff Zachary Terwilliger. Rosenstein’s letter criticized Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, and Trump used it to justify Comey’s May 9, 2017, firing.
Rosenstein, who resigned from his post as second-in-command at DOJ this spring shortly after William Barr took over as attorney general, told investigators he was “angry, ashamed, horrified, and embarrassed” by the way Comey was dumped by the Trump administration, and he told investigators he was “inclined to appoint a special counsel immediately the morning of May 10” although he waited a week to do so.
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