Rod Rosenstein has acknowledged that he suggested using a wiretap to record President Trump’s communications. Rosenstein claims, however, that he wasn’t serious about this proposal. He says he made it sarcastically.
But according to the Washington Post, James Baker, then the FBI’s top lawyer, has testified that Rosenstein’s suggestion was presented to him by FBI officials who heard it as a serious proposal. Baker wasn’t present when Rosenstein suggested wiretapping the president, but he reportedly has told congressional investigators that Andrew McCabe and Lisa Page treated the suggestion as a serious one.
Does this mean Rosenstein’s suggestion was, in fact, made seriously? No. McCabe and Page, both arch-enemies of President Trump, may have seized on a sarcastic suggestion that Trump be wiretapped in order to accomplish something they (but not Rosenstein) wanted to do.
It’s also possible that McCabe was trying to undermine Rosenstein. According to the Post, McCabe was feuding with Rosenstein at the time, Rosenstein having recommended the firing of James Comey, McCabe’s friend and ally.
McCabe may have regarded a sarcastic Rosenstein suggestion as a potential win-win. Either the suggestion gets shot down (as it was by Baker) and Rosenstein’s position is undermined for having made it or the suggestion is implemented and the deep state gets to eavesdrop on Trump.
Given what we know about McCabe and Page, I’m inclined to discount their claim that Rosenstein’s wiretap suggestion was serious. This view is supported by the Post’s report that one (unnamed) attendee of the meeting in question says he did not understand Rosenstein to be making a serious suggestion.
However, even the non-serious suggestion that the U.S. president be wiretapped is problematic. It’s irresponsible, especially when made in the presence of someone like McCabe.
Rosenstein’s biggest error, though, is the decision to appoint a special counsel to handle the Russia collusion probe. This was a matter well within the capacity of the Justice Department to handle. There was no need to bring in an outsider — and a pal of Comey’s to boot — to run a wide-ranging investigation of the president. The energy consumed dealing with Robert Mueller and his team of anti-Trump partisans has impaired the presidency for no good reason.
President Trump should have fired Rosenstein for this error alone. Why hasn’t he? Probably because it would look bad, both to the electorate and to Mueller. But once the mid-terms are over, and given Rosenstein’s suggestion — irresponsible, at a minimum — that Trump be wiretapped, I hope Trump will sack the Deputy Attorney General.
Trump says, though, that he’s gotten to know Rosenstein and gets along well with him. Rod Rosenstein and Kim Jong Un.