On April 29, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein submitted his long-awaited resignation letter to President Donald Trump, the man who had selected him for what turned out to be one of the most crucial jobs in his entire administration.
Controversy has swirled around Rosenstein since he was sworn in on April 26, 2017, following his confirmation hearings. He stepped into that top job almost two months after then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions had recused himself, on March 1, 2017, from all 2016 election-related DOJ investigations.
Sessions’s recusal meant that his deputy was going to play a crucial role. And indeed, Rosenstein had little time to become acclimated to the new job; by early May, he was thickly involved in Trump’s decision to fire James Comey as FBI director.
Rosenstein was originally scheduled to leave in mid-March this year, but new Attorney General William Barr asked him to stay on until the Mueller special counsel’s report was finished and released, and Rosenstein agreed.
Rosenstein ended his resignation letter to the president this way:
“We enforce the law without fear or favor because credible evidence is not partisan, and truth is not determined by opinion polls. We ignore fleeting distractions and focus our attention on the things that matter, because a republic that endures is not governed by the news cycle.
We keep the faith, we follow the rules, and we always put America first.”
Yes, you are reading that correctly. Rosenstein ended his resignation letter with the words “America first,” Trump’s own slogan.
For more than two years, I’ve watched various commentators sell narratives to the public about how a bewildered Trump kept being outmaneuvered by the man I’ve sarcastically dubbed “The Nefarious Rod Rosenstein,” a smirking traitor at his elbow who was supposedly helping to plot a coup against him.
Some people just can’t shake this firmly held belief that Trump is the world’s worst player at the game of “Spot The Traitor.”
I don’t buy that for a second. The truth about Rosenstein is far different from the popular narrative.
I firmly believe that Trump knew he and his campaign were being spied on by politicized federal agencies long before then-National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers visited him at Trump Tower on Nov. 17, 2016, following the election. Following that meeting, Trump the very next day moved his transition team to Bedminster, New Jersey.
You’re not supposed to remember that Trump hand-picked Rosenstein for this crucial deputy attorney general position long after he had become aware of spying shenanigans against him. Trump came into the White House knowing full well that he had to have immediate countermeasures ready to combat the Spygate plot. To believe anything else is to believe Trump is abjectly incompetent.
And Trump’s biggest most powerful countermeasure to the Spygate plot was: Rod Rosenstein.
Nobody really paid any attention to what Rosenstein said as he was grilled during a House hearing in June 2018: listen carefully to what Rosenstein says at 5:50 of the linked video.
Rosenstein: “We sit down with a team of attorneys from the Department of Justice, all of whom review that [the FISA warrant] and provide a briefing for us about what’s in it. Sir, I’ve reviewed that one in some detail and I can tell you, sir, that the information that’s public about that doesn’t match with my understanding of the one that I signed.
But I think it’s appropriate to let the Inspector General complete that investigation. These are serious allegations and I don’t do the investigation, I’m not the affiant. I’m reviewing the finished product, sir. If the Inspector General finds that I did something wrong then I’ll respect that judgment, but I think it’s highly highly unlikely, sir.”
Most missed what Rosenstein meant when he explained to Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) that he wasn’t the affiant of the FISA renewal application on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page; that is, he wasn’t the one who did the investigating and prepared the information.
If the people who presented that FISA warrant to Rosenstein lied to him and hid things from him—deceiving him to get it renewed—they instantly became guilty of perjuring themselves when he signed off on it.
That would be a very serious offense indeed, and I can assure you that Justice Department (DOJ) Inspector General Michael Horowitz has been taking a long and very serious look at all of this FISA abuse and will soon be releasing a report detailing what he’s discovered. Barr publicly testified before Congress that Horowitz will release that report “in May or June.”
Far from being a key Spygate plotter trying to cover up the attempted coup, I believe Rosenstein is going to play a key role as a witness in prosecuting the plotters. It’s why he has to exit the DOJ now, before the prosecution phase begins, as I detailed in this earlier column, “Trump Continues to Prepare the Battlefield.”
I was one of the first people to buck that popular narrative by telling you that Rosenstein is really Trump’s hand-picked guy and not the Deep State rat many were claiming he was. Here’s my take in August of last year: “Rod Rosenstein: The Man With the Most Thankless Job in America.”
And here again last October, I once again provided an alternative to the popular narrative that Rosenstein had Trump wrapped around his little finger: “The Circus of Confusion and Chaos That Hangs Around Rosenstein Is Deliberate.”
And again from last October, I challenged the “Rosenstein Is a Top Spygate Plotter” narrative: “Is Rosenstein’s Endgame Approaching?”
And in this column from February, I noted the desperate gambit of Spygate plotters Andrew McCabe and James Baker trying to sell the idea that Rosenstein was plotting a coup with them against a sitting president: “McCabe Tries to Play Bystander, Pin it All on Rosenstein.”
And in March, I again explained Rosenstein’s role in handling the Spygate investigations, while juggling the Mueller special counsel probe and the leak hunts: “How the DC Leak Culture Was Made Powerless to Thwart Spygate Investigations.”
If Rosenstein was the dirty Spygate plotter as some had painted him to be, then he’s the dumbest, most ineffective traitor ever, since the entire Spygate plot was killed dead and exposed. It’s now going to be declassified and prosecuted by Barr, and all this happened despite Rosenstein’s best efforts to keep it from happening, or something.
So, I’m clearly on the record since at least August 2018 about Rosenstein. And so are the doomcriers who spent two years selling the public narratives about how Rosenstein was somehow blackmailing Trump with the Mueller investigation so as to keep his job, while he smirked and plotted against the president.
There’s no doubt, is there? There isn’t even a hint of a grey area here.
And I’m going to be proven right. Rosenstein is the biggest hero in this unfolding drama we’ve been watching for the past two years inside the Department of Justice.
And you can quote me on that.
Brian Cates is a writer based in South Texas and author of “Nobody Asked For My Opinion … But Here It Is Anyway!” He can be reached on Twitter at @drawandstrike.