Unexamined Premises

'Here I Stand' — Or There He Goes?

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

As James Comey steps with both his left feet right into his Oscar Wilde moment, another player in the preening emotional drama that is the Mueller investigation has also taken the stage. Starring in the role of Drama Queen today is none other than Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the man to whom all roads lead in the current mess. Forget the weepy, creepy Jim Comey — if this were a Hercule Poirot story, the Belgian dandy would even now be waxing the tips of his moustaches and getting ready to enter the drawing room at Main Justice, his j’accuse at the ready.

Consider this news — or should I say, strategic pre-emptive leak:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has struck a stoic and righteous tone in private conversations he has had this week about the fate of his job as President Donald Trump has launched public criticism against him and considered firing him, according to three sources who have spoken to Rosenstein.

In those conversations, he has repeated the phrase, “Here I stand,” a reference to Martin Luther’s famous quote, “Here I stand, I can do no other.” Coincidentally, former FBI Director James Comey, whom Rosenstein fired, repeated the same phrase to President George W. Bush in a conversation that has been widely reported and that Comey describes in his forthcoming book.

One source who spoke to Rosenstein said he seemed fully aware he may soon lose his job and was at peace with the possibility, confident he had done his job with integrity.

Recall that it was Rosenstein who wrote the memo that president Trump cited when he fired Comey back in May. It was Rosenstein who stepped up to run the “Russian collusion” investigation after new attorney general Jeff Sessions foolishly succumbed to the Democrat-Media Complex’s hysteria over Hillary Clinton’s shocking loss and recused himself. It was Rosenstein who authorized the appointment of the special counsel and gave him an open-ended mandate, after Comey deliberately leaked his own memos, via a cut-out, to the New York Times in order to provoke just such an action. And it was Rosenstein who signed off on the misleading FISA warrants that currently have the FBI and the Justice Department in hot water with Congress.

In other words, Rosenstein is the man at the center of this whole mess. And now, anonymously, he’s singing like a canary to his pals in the media in order to hold onto his job by publicly fretting that he’s about to lose it.

Rosenstein has said in recent private conversations that history will prove he did the right thing by firing Comey in May 2017, claiming that the American people do not have all the facts about what led to his decision to write the memo that led to Comey’s dismissal, the sources said. Those same sources spoke to Rosenstein multiple times over the course of his tenure as the No. 2 attorney at the Justice Department and say Rosenstein now seems less anxious than he has been at previous times when the president has criticized him.

They previously described Rosenstein as anxious and upset under the pressure of public criticism for his role in the firing of former FBI Director James Comey as well as the president’s wrath for his subsequent decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Particularly in early summer 2017, around the time he fired Comey, and towards the end of the year as Trump increased his public denunciations of Rosenstein, sources say they witnessed the deputy attorney general’s anxiety flare, sometimes in late-night phone calls.

Comey’s tears and “out of body” experiences, Rosenstein’s midnight pleas for help — who are these people? They more closely resemble a gaggle of emotional high-school girls from Mean Girls than grown men overseeing two of the federal government’s most important institutions.

As Harry Truman used to say, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen, but today’s entitled bureaucrats seem to think they deserve a placid run in a high-paying job with as little public accountability as possible, and then a glide path to a lucrative retirement. Well, boo-hoo:

Trump tweeted on Wednesday morning that Rosenstein was perhaps more conflicted than Mueller because he “signed FISA and Comey letter,” referring to the authorization for surveillance of former Trump campaign operative Carter Page as well as the memo that fired James Comey.

Alan Dershowitz, a criminal defense lawyer who has publically defended Donald Trump against the Mueller probe, said Rosenstein should be recused from overseeing the Russia investigation because he is a witness to issues under investigation, such as the firing of Comey. Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon has also called on Trump to fire Rosenstein this week.

Whether Rosenstein stage-managed the whole Trump investigation from the start, or is simply a hapless hostage to fortune, it doesn’t really matter — he owns this kluge and ought to pay a price for it. At a time when the world is in greater turmoil than usual and the attention of the president is demanded by far more important issues than Hillary Clinton’s continued hurt feelings, do we really have the luxury to care about non-existent “collusion,” an aging porn prima donna’s lust for the spotlight, and the demolition of the attorney-client privilege in search of a crime that — even should one be found — antedates Trump’s political career?

The Constitution has a couple of mechanisms for removing a president, neither of which involves the legal system. The first is impeachment, which the Democrats will no doubt attempt should they retake the House of Representatives this fall (although there is next to no chance the Senate, which will stay in GOP hands, would convict and remove him). The second is the election of 2020.

No amount of tears is going to change that.