The Report: Part X: You're Fired
October 7, 2019 10:57 AM - Subscribe
It's March 7, 2017. The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing on the nomination of Rod Rosenstein to be the Deputy Attorney General. Rosenstein's whole career has been leading up to this moment. He's a non-partisan sort of guy. He's served under both President Bush and Obama. Now he's being elevated to the role of running the day to day at DOJ.But this hearing is about more than just confirming a new deputy attorney general. On March 2, five days earlier, Attorney General Jeff Sessions had announced his recusal from all investigations involving the 2016 election, a recusal which included the Russia investigation. And so, the moment he becomes deputy, Rosenstein will also become the acting attorney general for the purposes of the Russia investigation.Rosenstein is confirmed and he's sworn in on April 26, 2017. But his oath is about to be tested, like never before. Less than two weeks later, President Trump says he wants to fire the FBI Director and Rosenstein decides to help.
In this episode, we tell the story of two senior Justice Department officials who can’t seem to please the president: Sessions and Comey. It maps how Sessions comes to recuse himself from the Russia investigation and how that decision renders him useless for the president’s purposes. And then Trump decides to fire the FBI director. How did White House aides scramble to craft justifications for the dismissal that weren’t related to Russia and why is it that the Deputy Attorney General provided the pretext for the firing? And what does it mean when Trump undercuts their efforts and acknowledges the real reasons for the firing in a television interview? This all leaves the special counsel to untangle how the lies and mixed motives implicate obstruction laws and the president’s unique constitutional role.