"I’m guessing that Rosenstein wanted to push back as much as he could without getting fired"

Some associates took to parsing the words of the memo, which did not directly call for Comey to be fired but said that 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.”

“He didn’t say, ‘I recommend firing Comey,’ ” said Eric Columbus, who was a senior adviser to the deputy attorney general under President Barack Obama. But “I’m guessing that Rosenstein wanted to push back as much as he could without getting fired.”…

Several of Rosenstein’s former colleagues cited what they called a crucial distinction in the memo. They said there is a difference between believing that Comey mishandled matters such as the Clinton email investigation and the idea that the person overseeing an investigation into whether Russia aided Trump’s campaign should be fired by Trump. It is the latter that created much of the controversy over Trump’s decision.

Rosenstein’s memo partly relied on news accounts and statements by Democrats to accuse Comey of overstepping his authority in the Clinton case.