Former deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein escalated his war of words with former FBI director James Comey Monday, calling Comey a “partisan pundit” in remarks to the Greater Baltimore Committee.
“I do not blame the former director for being angry. I would be too if I were in his shoes,” Rosenstein said, referencing the unceremonious manner in which Comey was fired. “But now the former director seems to be acting as a partisan pundit, selling books and earning speaking fees while speculating about the strength of my character and the fate of my immortal soul. I kid you not.”
Comey, whose memoir has pulled in over $2 million since his firing two years ago, said last week on CNN that Rosenstein is someone “of accomplishment but not real sterling character, strong character.” He had previously, in a New York Times op-ed, written that Attorney General William Barr and others working in the Trump administration do not possess the “inner strength” to oppose Trump, who “eats your soul in small bites.”
Rosenstein wrote in a memo at the time of Comey’s firing that the move was “reasonable under the circumstances,” but the former deputy attorney general stressed that Trump did not coach him on the reasons he cited justifying the firing.
“On the contrary, I admired him personally,” Rosenstein said of Comey, before arguing that the former FBI director had crossed “bright lines that should never be crossed.”
Rosenstein officially left the Justice Department last week, after having delayed his departure until Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s final report was released.
“The clearest mistake was the director’s decision to hold a press conference about an open case, reveal his recommendation and discuss details about the investigation, without the consent of the prosecutors and the attorney general,” Rosenstein said, referring to Comey’s July 5, 2016 news conference announcing that the FBI had recommended no criminal charges arising from the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. “Then, he chose to send a letter to the Congress on the eve of the election stating that one of the candidates was under criminal investigation, expecting it to be released immediately to the public,” he continued, referencing Comey’s October 28, 2016 announcement to Congress that the investigation had been reopened.
“Those actions were not within the range of reasonable decisions,” Rosenstein said, but added, “I would be the last one to condemn anyone for a judgment call. These jobs are difficult. They involve choices that invite criticism.”
“My soul and character are pretty much the same today as they were two years ago,” he concluded. “I think I made the right calls on the things that mattered.”