An unfamiliar name has suddenly become much more familiar this week in the wake of the James Comey firing. It's that of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who has emerged as a leading, if reluctant, figure in the controversy. Rosenstein wrote a memo to President Trump that criticizes Comey at length, though he reportedly feels he was unfairly set up to be the villain in the firing. Related coverage:
- Threat to quit: The Washington Post reports that Rosenstein threatened to resign over the chain of events. As the story lays it out, Trump had already decided he wanted to fire Comey when he asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Rosenstein to write memos justifying the decision. But the White House has been suggesting that Trump made his decision in response to the memos, particularly Rosenstein's. (Update: Trump himself said Thursday that he planned to fire Comey anyway.)
- The memo: Read the actual Rosenstein memo on Comey at the Baltimore Sun. The focus is on Comey's handling of Hillary Clinton's email mess.
- What it doesn't say: Though it comes close, the memo does not explicitly recommend that Comey be fired, observes the Los Angeles Times.
- Who is Rosenstein? He's been deputy attorney general for only about two weeks, but prior to that the 52-year-old was a Justice Department attorney with an unusual resume: He served under George W. Bush and Barack Obama. In a profile, the Atlantic notes that his "integrity has been compared to that of Jimmy Stewart, the actor who portrayed egoless small-town heroes driven by bygone ideals: of right and wrong, and black and white in a world gone increasing gray." Another profile at CNN echoes the point and calls him the "unlikely hatchet man" in the Comey story.
- Now a target: A Forward piece notes that Rosenstein was confirmed to the Justice Department's No. 2 post by a vote of 94-6 in the Senate, a feat of rare bipartisanship. But he's now being publicly criticized over Comey, and the story raises the question of whether he'll be able to survive the "growing firestorm."
- A plea to Rosenstein: The New York Times editorial board has written an open letter to Rosenstein, asserting that Trump has exploited his integrity and urging him to name a special counsel for the Russia investigation, even if it costs him his job.
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