Trump Admits He Used Rosenstein as a Human Shield

The president says he decided to fire James Comey before the deputy A.G.’s letter—and it wouldn’t have mattered what he wrote anyway.

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast

From the moment Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, the White House had a consistent message: The president did it on the advice of Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general.

White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee-Sanders said he had considered firing Comey since Election Day, but that only did so on the “recommendation of his deputy attorney general.”

Vice President Mike Pence said, “the president took strong and decisive leadership here.. .by accepting the recommendation of the deputy attorney general to remove Director Comey as the head of the FBI.”

Neither of these statements are true, Trump now says.

Which means the president isn’t just contradicting his staff and his running mate; he’s turned Rosenstein, his newly installed deputy attorney general, into something of a human shield.

Now Trump says he already made up his mind before Rosenstein made his recommendation to replace Comey.

“I was going to fire Comey,” Trump told NBC News’ Lester Holt on Thursday, adding, “I was going to fire regardless of recommendation.”

Trump then directly said it wouldn’t have mattered what Rosenstein wrote.

“He made a recommendation, but regardless of recommendation I was going to fire Comey.”

Trump did not specify when he decided to fire Comey prior to Rosenstein’s letter. The president called Comey a “grandstander, a showboat” and said the bureau has “been in turmoil.”

Rosenstein tarnished his reputation as a long-time, apolitical attorney who worked his way all the way up to the Justice Department’s No. 2 job by writing a letter for Trump that made an absurd argument: Comey had no more credibility because he was too mean in clearing Hillary Clinton’s publicly—and that he “usurped” the powers of Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who practically recused herself anyway.

The letter even relied on quoting op-ed columns and interviews with former attorneys general to support Rosenstein’s argument.

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In return, the White House made Rosenstein the face of Comey’s firing. Rosenstein was reportedly so angry that he was being framed as Trump’s hatchet man that he is said to have threatened to resign last night.

Rosenstein didn’t resign. The next day the president made Rosenstein look like a sucker.

That’s the price of loyalty in Trumpland.