Saturday, May 13, 2017

For Rosenstein Is An Honorable Man

I had thought I was through writing about Rod Rosenstein until Monday, the deadline for him doing what he is currently being reported as refusing to do, appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate the Trump treason and other crimes of other people.  But someone else just talked about what a tower of integrity he is and what a great reputation he has.  If I hear that one more time I'm going to get violent.  Perhaps only against the radio, perhaps more.

With every passing hour, it's obvious that either their definitions of those virtues are dodgy, in themselves, or he successfully sold them on a phony version of himself as a great man.  Let's get this straight, he has already shown he is nothing of the sort.

As Daphna Renan and David Pozen, noted at Lawfare, Rod Rosenstein, according to his own claims in his infamous letter recommending the firing of James Comey, should also be fired.

Comey, according to Rosenstein’s memorandum, “ignored” “longstanding principle[s]” and “well-established process[es]” of the Justice Department. He departed from the Department’s “‘widely-respected, non-partisan traditions,’” and he “laid out his version of the facts for the news media as if it were a closing argument.”

The irony is that in leveling such charges in such a document, Rosenstein was performing his own criticisms. He ignored the Inspector General process and the principles of administrative fairness, independence, and truth-seeking it is meant to embody. And in a departure from the Department’s traditions, he laid out his version of the case against Comey for public consumption as if it were a closing argument.

Their colleague at Lawfact, Benjamin Wittes, reveals himself as one of those former fans of Rod Rosenstein of the establishment who have been stunned by his behavior.

When Trump nominated Rosenstein as deputy attorney general, I was delighted. I have known Rosenstein for a long time. I have always thought well of him. I've admired his ability to serve at senior levels in administrations of both parties and impress both sides with apolitical service. I considered it a positive sign that Trump had installed a career professional as deputy attorney general under Jeff Sessions, who is a polarizing figure to many. And I quietly told many people anxious about Sessions that I was not worried that anything too terrible would happen at the department with Rosenstein and Rachel Brand—who has not yet been confirmed as associate attorney general and of whom I think extremely highly—in the deputy's and associate's offices respectively.

I was profoundly wrong about Rosenstein.

Rosenstein's memo in support of Comey’s firing is a shocking document. The more I think about it, the worse it gets. I have tried six ways from Sunday to put an honorable construction on it. But in the end, I just cannot find one. The memo is a press release to justify an unsavory use of presidential power. It is also a profoundly unfair document. And it's gutless too. Because at the end of the day, the memo greases the wheels for Comey's removal without ever explicitly urging it—thus allowing its author to claim that he did something less than recommend the firing, while in fact providing the fig leaf for it.

In other words, Rosenstein’s actual role was even less honorable than the one he reportedly objected to the White House's tagging him with. If the original story that Rosenstein’s recommendation drove the train had been true, after all, that at least would involve his giving his independent judgment. But the truth that Trump told is far worse than the lie Rosenstein insisted the White House correct. Rosenstein was tasked to provide a pretext, and he did just that.

Even more telling about the phenomenon of insider, connected people duped by people like them, going on for decades is contained in this.

Let’s give Rosenstein the benefit of the doubt and assume he believes every word of the memo he wrote—and I do assume as much. A lot of people, including a lot of people with institutionalist Justice Department views, share the belief that Comey screwed up, as the President would say, big league. Even I, who have defended the good faith of Comey’s actions and believe he was in an impossible situation, do not agree with every one of his decisions during the 2016 election period. So I’m perfectly willing to believe that Rosenstein felt able to take on the assignment to write this memo because he, in fact, believes the things he said in it.

Let’s go a step further and assume that everything Rosenstein says in the memo about Comey’s conduct is actually true—in other words, not merely that Rosenstein believes it all, but that he’s right. (This I do not believe, but I don’t want to relitigate the question of Comey’s handling of the Clinton emails matters.)

For that matter, let's set aside the fact that the memo criticizes Comey for actions taken many months ago that the current president never criticized and that the previous administration did not think amounted to a firing offense.

I think what we are seeing is how many of those guys like Rod Rosenstein, taken as towers of integrity and bulwarks of American democracy and the rule of law are one strongman away from becoming an aparatchick in a full blown fascist strongman government.  Rosenstein knows that as long as he plays along with Trump he is in no danger of being fired, investigated, indicted,  convicted and punished for crimes. He knows that as long as The Mitch McConnells and Paul Ryans and Jeff Sessions are running what are supposed to be checks and balances on an unbalanced Republican strongman, he knows one thing above all, which side his bread is buttered on at any given time.

We have to stop this bullshit myth that these people are dependably honorable because our government is not guaranteed to be in the hands of honorable men.   The old-boy, Ivy network plays a part in that, class does, party certainly does, but the 18th century system that depended on that instead of strong, specific laws and means of removing gangsters like Trump, McConnell and Ryan from office AND SENDING THEM TO PRISON doesn't work now and probably won't.   Those kinds of laws, specific and with mandatory minimum sentences (Jeff Sessions is a big fan of them as long as you are poor and preferably not white) are what we need now.

And we need a Constitutional amendment that will remove the power of anyone from pardoning a sitting president for committing high crimes, keeps a president from pardoning anyone in the employ of his administration and which broadens the definition of treason to include what Trump and his crime gang have done.

1 comment:

  1. So, he's not tarred by association, they are more like birds of a feather. Hmmmmm.....