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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Case growth outpacing testing in coronavirus hotspots

Data: The COVID Tracking Project. Note: Vermont and Hawaii were not included because they have fewer than 20 cases per day. Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The United States' alarming rise in coronavirus cases isn't due to increased testing — particularly not where cases have grown fastest over the last month.

Why it matters: The U.S. doesn't yet know what it looks like when a pandemic rages on relatively unchecked after the health system has become overwhelmed. It may be about to find out.

The impending retail apocalypse

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Because of the coronavirus and people's buying habits moving online, retail stores are closing everywhere — often for good.

Why it matters: Malls are going belly up. Familiar names like J.C. Penney, Neiman Marcus and J. Crew have filed for bankruptcy. Increasingly, Americans' shopping choices will boil down to a handful of internet Everything Stores and survival-of-the-fittest national chains.

Biden campaign using Instagram to mobilize celebrity supporters

Collins appears on the Build live interview series in November 2019. Photo: Gary Gershoff/Getty Images

The Biden campaign is launching a new initiative today that will draft Hollywood celebrities for Instagram Live chats with campaign officials and other Biden supporters.

Why it matters: The campaign, called #TeamJoeTalks, is an attempt to open up a new front on social media, drawing on celebrities’ Instagram followers to help find and motivate voters while large parts of the country remain locked down.