May 14, 2019

Rosenstein denounces former FBI director Comey as a "partisan pundit"

Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein hit back at ex-FBI director James Comey for questioning his conduct after the release of the Mueller report, in a speech to the Greater Baltimore Committee Monday.

"The former director is a partisan pundit, selling books and earning speaking fees while speculating about the strength of my character and the fate of my immortal soul. That is disappointing. Speculating about souls is not a job for police and prosecutors. Generally, we base our opinions on eyewitness testimony."

Context: In an opinion piece for the New York Times last week, Comey asked how Rosenstein could "give a speech quoting the president on the importance of the rule of law" following the release of Mueller's report, which he said detailed President Trump’s determined efforts to obstruct justice.

Why it matters: Rosenstein wrote the letter that Trump used as a basis to fire Comey in May 2017, as the Russia investigation intensified. Comey's firing was a key aspect of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether Trump obstructed justice. Rosenstein appointed Mueller to lead the investigation.

  • In his first public speech since stepping down as deputy attorney general, Rosenstein told the GBC it was Comey's handling of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's email investigation in 2016 that was a defining professional error. He expressed some sympathy for the former FBI director but said, "There are bright lines that should never be crossed."
"If I had been the decision-maker, the removal would have been handled very differently, with far more respect and far less drama, so I do not blame the former director for being angry."

Go deeper: Timeline: Every big move in the Mueller investigation

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Biden says he's starting VP search this month

Joe Biden. Photo: Scott Olson / Staff

Joe Biden said he's spoken to Sen. Bernie Sanders and former President Barack Obama about selecting a running mate — and that he wants to build "a bench of younger, really qualified people" who can lead the nation over the course of the next four presidential cycles.

Driving the news: Biden spoke about the state of the 2020 race during a virtual fundraiser on Friday night that was opened to pooled coverage.

Trump ousting intelligence community inspector general

Michael Atkinson, inspector general of the intelligence community. Photo: Bill Clark / Getty Images

President Trump notified key lawmakers on Friday that he’s firing Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community's inspector general, who first alerted Congress last September of an "urgent" complaint from an official involving Trump's correspondence with the Ukrainian president.

Why it matters: The move, to take effect in 30 days, comes amid a broader initiative to purge the administration of officials seen as disloyal to the president.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Axios Visuals

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 1,097,909 — Total deaths: 59,131 — Total recoveries: 226,106Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 277,828 — Total deaths: 7,406 — Total recoveries: 9,772Map.
  3. Public health latest: The CDC is recommending Americans wear face coverings in public to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. The federal government will cover the costs of COVID-19 treatment for the uninsured, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said.
  4. 2020 latest: "I think a lot of people cheat with mail-in voting," President Trump said of the 2020 election, as more states hold primary elections by mail. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock said Friday that every county in the state opted to expand mail-in voting for the state's June 2 primary.
  5. Business updates: America's small business bailout is off to a bad start. The DOT is urging airlines to refund passengers due to canceled or rescheduled flights, but won't take action against airlines that provide vouchers or credits.
  6. Oil latest: The amount of gas American drivers are consuming dropped to levels not seen in more than 25 years, government data shows. Trump is calling on the Energy Department to find more places to store oil.
  7. Tech updates: Twitter will allow ads containing references to the coronavirus under certain use cases.
  8. U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt: Senators call for independent investigation into firing of Navy captain.
  9. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  10. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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