Trump Calls Justice Department and F.B.I. Conduct ‘a Disgrace’

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The president, who first considered getting rid of Mr. Rosenstein last summer, pointedly refused to say on Friday whether he was more likely to do so now, cocking his head and telling reporters who pressed him on the matter: “You figure that out.”
But the release of the memo underscored how Mr. Trump has transformed his own suspicions and unsubstantiated theories about an inquiry he has repeatedly called a “hoax” and a “witch hunt” into a set of official accusations of corruption against the very people investigating him. The president has called for months for the compilation of such evidence, often taking to Twitter to demand that the Justice Department and the F.B.I. release information that could show political bias on the part of those investigating whether his campaign colluded with Russia.
Last month, Representative Devin Nunes, the California Republican who leads the Intelligence Committee and is a loyal ally of Mr. Trump, obliged by dispatching his staff to compile a classified document that seeks to illustrate just that. Mr. Trump was eager to release it.
The memo described Mr. Rosenstein as one of the senior Justice Department officials who approved an application to extend surveillance of Mr. Page, and suggested that those applications deliberately avoided mentioning that they were based in part on information in a dossier paid for by Democrats.
A senior White House official, insisting on anonymity to discuss the president’s thinking, said there had been no consideration or discussion of dismissing Mr. Rosenstein, and that the material in the memo had not altered Mr. Trump’s view of him.
Still, the prospect of Mr. Rosenstein’s ouster set off alarms among Democrats, who said it would be an unacceptable move by the president to thwart a federal investigation.

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“We write to inform you that we would consider such an unwarranted action as an attempt to obstruct justice in the Russia investigation,” Democratic leaders said in a letter to Mr. Trump shortly after he made his comments at the White House on Friday morning.

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“Firing Rod Rosenstein, D.O.J. leadership, or Bob Mueller could result in a constitutional crisis of the kind not seen since the Saturday Night Massacre,” they wrote. They were referring to President Nixon’s order at the height of the Watergate scandal to fire Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor. Elliot Richardson, the attorney general, and William Ruckelshaus, the deputy attorney general, resigned rather than carry out the order.
In a morning tweet before the release of the memo, Mr. Trump said senior officials had corrupted the Russia inquiry with partisan bias.
“The top Leadership and Investigators of the FBI and the Justice Department have politicized the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans — something which would have been unthinkable just a short time ago,” Mr. Trump said on Twitter.

        The top Leadership and Investigators of the FBI and the Justice Department have politicized the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans - something which would have been unthinkable just a short time ago. Rank & File are great people!         —
    Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)
    Feb. 2, 2018

He also circulated a quotation from Tom Fitton, the president of the conservative-aligned group Judicial Watch, who last year said the Obama administration had turned the F.B.I. into a “K.G.B.-type operation.” On Friday, in a statement retweeted by the president, Mr. Fitton accused Hillary Clinton and Democrats of trying to hide the fact that they had funded the dossier, which, he said, “was used by their allies in the Obama Administration to convince a Court misleadingly, by all accounts, to spy on the Trump Team.”

In an afternoon statement, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said the memo “raises serious concerns about the integrity of decisions made at the highest levels of the Department of Justice and the F.B.I. to use the government’s most intrusive surveillance tools against American citizens.” Later on Friday, Mr. Trump visited a Customs and Border Protection training center to urge passage of an immigration overhaul before flying to Florida for a weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort.
Senior officials at the Justice Department and the F.B.I. had strenuously objected to the Republican memo, arguing that it omitted key facts, a case that Mr. Rosenstein and Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, made to Mr. Trump at the White House on Monday. But on Friday, Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, appeared to side with critics of the Justice Department.

“Congress has made inquiries concerning an issue of great importance for the country, and concerns have been raised about the department’s performance,” Mr. Sessions said in a statement. “I have great confidence in the men and women of this department. But no department is perfect.”
Earlier, during an event at the Justice Department on Friday morning, Mr. Sessions veered off script to praise Mr. Rosenstein, a 27-year veteran of the agency, whom he said represents “the kind of quality and leadership that we want in the department.”
But some conservatives quickly seized on the declassified memo as grounds to dismiss Mr. Rosenstein. The Tea Party Patriots, a political group, produced a dramatic television ad calling him “a weak careerist at the Justice Department, protecting liberal Obama holdovers and the deep state instead of following the rule of law.” It said he should do his job or resign.
Should Mr. Trump opt to act on the allegations in the memo, Mr. Rosenstein might not be the only senior official affected. Among the other officials mentioned as having approved the applications to extend the surveillance warrant was Dana Boente, who briefly acted as assistant attorney general in the National Security Division before being named as the general counsel at the F.B.I.

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Earlier this week, Andrew G. McCabe, the deputy director of the F.B.I., abruptly left after Mr. Wray, the F.B.I. director, confronted him about an investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general into the events of 2016, when the bureau was investigating both Mrs. Clinton’s email use and the Trump campaign’s connections to Russia.
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