Meantime, Trump quickly realized how weak he looked for making Rosenstein the fall guy. In a schizo-second, Macho Trump returned. The president promptly contradicted his original story about merely following the Justice Department’s recommendation, now claiming that the decision was his and his alone, and that the Justice Department’s memos had nothing to do with it.

Then, in a lapse of judgment that stands out even by Trump standards, the president decided to host Russian diplomats at the White House the day after firing Comey, and to berate the former director for the consumption of these agents of a hostile regime. In addition to describing the former director as “crazy, a real nut job,” Trump told Putin’s men that by getting rid of Comey, he had “taken off” the “great pressure” he faced “because of Russia.” Thus did the president, with both hands, feed the Democrats’ narrative that Comey had been removed in order to obstruct the FBI’s probe of Trump-campaign collusion in Putin’s election-meddling.

Trump’s breathtakingly erratic performance gave Democrats and the media goo-gobs of ammunition to portray Rosenstein as a co-conspirator in a corruptly motivated, dishonestly executed sacking of the FBI director. There was no way Rosenstein was going to sit passively in the eye of that storm. And there was no way he was going to look to Trump, the man who put him there, for help and guidance. Rosenstein took it on himself to appoint Robert Mueller as special counsel.