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Rosenstein: I stand by Comey memo
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told lawmakers during a pair of closed-door meetings that he stands by his memo that was initially used as the reason for former FBI Director James Comey's firing.
"It is a candid memorandum about the FBI Director's public statements concerning a high-profile criminal investigation," Rosenstein told lawmakers, according to a copy of his opening statement released Friday. "I wrote it. I believe it. I stand by it."
The memo came under criticism after the White House initially pointed to the document as the justification for Comey's firing last week. President Trump later said last week he would have fired Comey regardless, although on Thursday he again cited the memo as his main reasoning.
Rosenstein added during the closed-door meetings that the document "is not a statement of reasons to justify a for-cause termination."
"My memorandum is not a finding of official misconduct; the inspector general will render his judgement about the issue in due course," the No. 2 Justice Department official said.
The document criticizes Comey's handling of the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's private email server, but did not directly call for the former FBI director's firing.
But Rosenstein appears to signal in it that he thought the FBI needed a new director, and notes that he and Sessions discussed the issue during their first meeting.
"Notwithstanding my personal affection for Director Comey, I thought it was appropriate to seek a new leader," he told lawmakers, according to his remarks.
Rosenstein was grilled about his memo during closed-door meetings with House lawmakers on Friday and the Senate on Thursday afternoon.
But the deputy attorney general remained tight-lipped about the decision-making process for firing Comey, including the role of Sessions, who instructed him to write the Comey memo or any conversations he had with Trump.
Democrats left both meetings frustrated that Rosenstein had been unwilling to say more to satisfy their concerns about Comey's firing or the ongoing investigation.
"I just don't think he was prepared to talk about much," Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told reporters. "He didn't do anything to satisfy anybody in that regard."
Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) called the briefing with Rosenstein "useless."
A pair of liberal senators reportedly grilled Rosenstein during Thursday's briefing, and Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat, acknowledged afterwards that "there was some frustration" in the room.
Rosenstein did tell lawmakers that he was aware that Trump had already decided to fire Comey when he wrote the memo, and that he asked a career prosecutor to look over the document.
"I informed the senior attorney that the president was going to remove Director Comey, that I was writing a memorandum to the attorney general summarzing my own concerns and that I wanted to confirm that everything in my memorandum was accurate," he said.
Rosenstein also hit back at reports that Comey asked him for more resources for the FBI's Russia investigation, which is also focused on contacts between the Trump administration and Moscow, shortly before he was fired.
"I'm not aware of any such request. Moreover, I consulted my staff and Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, and none of them recalls such a request," he told lawmakers.
The New York Times reported earlier this month that Comey asked the Justice Department for more prosecutors and other personnel to help accelerate the Russia investigation. The Justice Department denied that report.
Senators said after their closed-door meeting on Thursday that they expected Rosenstein to publicly release his opening comments.
[Source: By Jordan Carney, The Hill, Washington, 19May17]
|This document has been published on 22May17 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.|