Which Comes First? Will Rosenstein Recuse Himself or Be Fired?

In the wake of news about the fact that Trump is under investigation for obstruction of justice, Ari Melber and Phil Helsel wrote that it could have implications for Rod Rosenstein.

An FBI inquiry of the Comey firing makes it more likely Rosenstein could be a witness, and thus potentially meet the parameters for recusing himself from overseeing Mueller’s investigation.

Apparently recusing himself is something the Deputy Attorney General has already discussed.

The senior Justice Department official with ultimate authority over the special counsel’s probe of Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election has privately acknowledged to colleagues that he may have to recuse himself from the matter, which he took charge of only after Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ own recusal, sources tell ABC News.

On the heels of all of this, Trump took to twitter this morning.

Let’s first of all note that the president told a national television audience that he made the decision to fire Comey prior to the recommendation from Rosenstein. But that tweet certainly looks like Trump is going into attack mode against the Deputy Attorney General—who is the one person in the administration with the authority to fire Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller.

I always pay attention to what Matthew Miller, Director of the Office of Public Affairs for the Department of Justice in the Obama administration, has to say about these kinds of developments. Here was his response to this news:

Of course, if Trump were to fire Rosenstein, that could trigger the beginning of the kind of constitutional crisis we saw in the so-called “Saturday Night Massacre” during the Watergate affair. But either way, it is important to note that the Russia/Trump probe has already resulted in a recusal from the Attorney General and the firing of the FBI Director. A third strike at the leadership in the Justice Department would be devastating institutionally. And yet we seem to be heading in that direction.

In light of all this it is important to note that the next in line at DOJ is Rachel Bland. Sari Horwitz provided a summary of her background when she became the Associate Attorney General about a month ago. Highlights include the fact that she graduated from Harvard Law School, clerked for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, served as Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Policy in the George W. Bush administration and is a member of the Federalist Society—where she met her husband. Should Rosenstein recuse himself or be fired, this is the woman who would stand squarely in the middle of a potential constitutional crisis.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.