Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Rod Rosenstein Gets A Stay of Execution


Poor Rod Rosenstein, I know exactly what he’s going through; well sorta. On more than one occasion I’ve had to pull a rabbit out of the hat just to keep my job. You can’t imagine how humiliating it is to walk into a meeting with your boss and have him read you out over everything you’ve done wrong, while systematically ignoring everything he and the company has done wrong. For anyone who’s been there, it’s never pleasant; nor is it a two-way street. Like Kevin Bacon, you assume the position, take your beating and say “Thank you, sir, may I have another?”

Now I don’t know exactly how Rosenstein’s White House meeting with Donald Trump went down. But from everything I’ve read and from what we know about this president, the Bacon analogy isn’t all that far-fetched, except instead of holding a paddle, Trump was holding a copy of the Constitution, and instead of saying “Thank you, sir, may I have another?” Rosenstein and FBI Director Chris Wray - who was also summoned to the White House - played the role of Colonel Hogan to Trump’s Colonel Klink. For those not familiar with the popular ‘60s sitcom Hogan’s Heroes, it was about a bunch of prisoners at a German POW camp who took turns duping the commandant - Klink - who for lack of a better term was a gullible idiot.

The reason for this meeting was that Trump demanded an investigation of the investigation into himself and his campaign, and rather than resign or refuse, Rosenstein mollified him, not by appointing another special counsel, which would’ve been unprecedented, but by referring the whole matter to the Inspector General’s office. He then issued a statement which read, “If anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action.” Wow, even Colonel Hogan would’ve been hard-pressed to top that.

And that’s why Rosenstein still has a job today. But here's the question I would pose. Should he have just refused the "demand" and challenged Trump to fire him? Or, perhaps even better, just flat out resigned? Some, including David Frum, say he should’ve. Others feel strongly that the best thing Rosenstein can do to protect the integrity of the investigation is to hang on to his job as long as possible, even if it means being humiliated by a man who in all likelihood will probably fire him anyway. They argue that each day Rosenstein remains in his job allows Robert Mueller the time he needs to put together a case for obstruction – for which this stunt provides ample evidence - and present his findings to the Justice Department.

I confess I’m torn. Both sides make valid points. Each time Rosenstein gives in to Trump, if only a little, he enables him and undermines the integrity of the DOJ and the FBI, both of which have come under assault by this president and his allies in Congress. It also gives this president the excuse he needs to continue with this outrageous counter narrative of some deep state looking to destroy his presidency. Drawing a firm line and daring Trump to cross it might result in his firing, but it would bring this whole scandal to a head once and for all.

But then the pragmatist in me looks at the cold hard facts. If Trump fires Rosenstein, he will simply appoint a replacement who will shut down the Russia investigation and remove Mueller entirely. The problem with daring Trump to cross a line is that his whole life is a series of lines that have been crossed. He has no regard for norms or laws, nor does he have a moral compass. I wrote in an earlier piece that Trump knows he’s guilty and he will do anything he can to make sure the truth never gets out.

The more I think about it, what Rosenstein is doing may have risks, but he really has no other alternative. Yes, Trump may indeed fire him next week or maybe the week after that or the week after that. The point is, he didn’t fire him this week, and that’s one more week the country can exhale while the wheels of justice continue to turn. 

And, for now, that’s good enough for me.

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