Thursday night was, as is tradition nowadays, full of news. The Washington Post reported that special counsel Robert Mueller was looking into Jared Kushner’s finances and that Mike Pence was lawyering up. In response, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein released this statement:
This would be extremely weird if it came from any other administration. But standard practice in the Trump administration—which very much comes from the top down—has been to discredit anonymous sources in negative stories (while continuing to push positive coverage that uses anonymous sources who are clearly White House officials). But that this is coming from Rosenstein (it’s pronounced “Rosensteen”), the man who is ostensibly leading the Russia investigation, is remarkable.
The White House is denying that it pushed Rosenstein to release this memo, but that just doesn’t pass the smell test. Why else would he release a statement like this? It may have some short-term utility in pushing back against the Kushner story, but it further undermines Rosenstein’s credibility while giving Congress something concrete it can ask him about the next time he testifies.
Rosenstein should have already recused himself from the Russia investigation given his role in establishing the flimsy pretext for James Comey’s firing. (Update: ABC News reports that Rosenstein has acknowledged that he might have to recuse himself.) But after this statement—which is meant to protect the administration, not the integrity of the investigation—his ability to continue to lead that investigation is in question.
At the very least, it is being questioned in the White House. On Friday morning, Donald Trump tweeted that Rosenstein was the leader of the WITCH HUNT:
This tweet is notable because Trump is confirming that he is, in fact, under investigation by the FBI. But it also signals that Rosenstein may be in deep trouble. Trump was convinced not to fire Mueller, but it’s hard to imagine anyone stepping in to protect Rosenstein. His memo may have been a last-ditch attempt to save his job, but it doesn’t seem like it worked.