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By Eric Lieberman
Former FBI Director James Comey said in March that he was somewhat worried about the prospect of Rod Rosenstein becoming deputy attorney general, according to a post published Thursday by Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Wittes, who is a friend of Comey and an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, says that the then-FBI director expressed overt reservations about then-unconfirmed Rosenstein during a relatively casual lunch. Rosenstein’s ascension was not officially formalized in the Senate until months after Trump’s nomination.
While the powwow covered many different topics, Wittes’ recounts a memorable point of the meeting in which he assumed Comey would be fully supportive of Rosenstein’s imminent confirmation.
“Rod is a survivor,” Comey said, according to Wittes’ personal post on the Lawfare blog. “So I have concerns.”
“This surprised me because I had always thought well of Rosenstein,” Wittes recalls, adding that Comey did not appear “enthusiastic.”
Wittes interprets Comey’s remarks as a genuine reflection of how the political landscape works, specifically when trying to survive multiple administrations “without making compromises.”
Comey did agree with Wittes that Rosenstein had an overall favorable reputation.
Around a month or so after the rendezvous, Rosenstein voiced support for the firing of Comey in a memo to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
“Almost everyone agrees that the Director made serious mistakes; it is one of the few issues that unites people of diverse perspectives,” Rosenstein wrote, according to NBC. “The way the Director handled the conclusion of the email investigation was wrong. As a result, the FBI is unlikely to regain public and congressional trust until it has a Director who understands the gravity of the mistakes and pledges never to repeat them.” (RELATED: Will The GOP Remake Surveillance Laws After Trump Leaks)
In front of members of the Senate weeks later, Rosenstein suggested that Trump’s decision to fire Comey was already in the works when he composed the memo.