Rod Rosenstein: People are threatening me, privately and publicly, but the DOJ won't be extorted

We know who’s making the public threats. I’d be interested in hearing more about the private ones.

Is it random yahoos or people whose names we’d recognize? Because the latter sounds obstruction-y.

He’s asked here about the articles of impeachment for him that have been drafted by House Republicans, which (a) we already knew about and (b) are a weak bluff with 99.9 percent certainty. After spending the past year urging Trump not to blow up Russiagate by firing Mueller, Paul Ryan’s not about to light the powder keg himself six months out from a midterm by letting his caucus impeach Rosenstein. House Republicans want to be as far from the blast as they can get if and when it happens, not right on top of it.

Bob Goodlatte and Trey Gowdy sent Rosenstein a new letter this afternoon demanding information on Dan Richman’s relationship with James Comey and the FBI more broadly. Richman’s the friend whom Comey gave his memo to leak to the media last year shortly after he was fired. Goodlatte and Gowdy want to know if Richman really was cleared to receive that memo. Both men are retiring so they have no electoral reason to do Trump’s bidding in pressing Rosenstein, and Gowdy in particular has been outspoken in defense of Mueller. He’s not harassing the DOJ over this just for the sake of doing it, or to try to discredit the Department. Rosenstein has until May 15 to provide an answer.

In the meantime, a new Russiagate question is floating around today: Who leaked the list of Mueller questions to the NYT last night and why? New York mag makes a persuasive case that it came from someone in Trump’s orbit, connected somehow to (but not part of) his legal team. Mueller’s office isn’t known to leak — if it did, we’d know more about what Mike Flynn is telling them, for example — whereas the White House leaks like a sieve. But why leak Mueller’s questions?

New York’s best guess is that it’s yet another case of Trump’s advisors trying to get through to him via the press. In this case, leaking the questions would presumably trigger an avalanche of commentators saying “No way Trump should answer these!” and POTUS would listen to them and decline an interview. Could be, but I wonder if there’s a simpler explanation: Revenge. John Dowd fits the description of someone who’s connected to but no longer part of Trump’s team, having left under strained circumstances. It may be that Dowd wanted to put some heat on his former colleagues by showing the world what Mueller might have on Trump. The most buzzed-about question this morning had to do with what Paul Manafort might know about collusion, a new and dangerous thread for Trump. Maybe Dowd or whoever leaked the questions wanted to sting POTUS by increasing public suspicion about that.

But it’s so hard to say. Dowd denies he’s the leaker, in fact. It could be that the source is pro-Trump and wanted to quickly alert all players in the Russiagate probe as to what sorts of subjects Mueller is interested in. If you’re a Trump crony who knows now that the special counsel is working an angle related to Manafort on collusion, you’re going to be extra cautious about what information you share on Manafort. Prosecutors don’t want witnesses comparing notes; leaking the questions achieved that on a national scale.

We shall see. In lieu of an exit question, a bit of new ominous news for POTUS. If Mueller and Flynn aren’t ready for sentencing yet, that’s almost certainly because they still have more work to do. Together.