For years, Rosenstein had carefully tended to his reputation as an apolitical lawman, beloved of both parties. At a time when Trump nominees for top executive offices were extraordinarily difficult to move through the Senate with Republicans holding a razor thin 51–49 majority, Rosenstein breezed to confirmation as deputy attorney general by the margin of 94 to 6, with overwhelming #Resistance support.
Yet, on Comey’s firing, he badly misdiagnosed the Democrats. Like the president and some B-Team White House advisers, Rosenstein figured that his memo — so solicitous of Mrs. Clinton, so respectful of Democratic as well as Republican rebukes of Comey — would be applauded by Democrats, who blamed the former director for Clinton’s defeat. It had apparently escaped Rosenstein’s notice that Democrats had moved on from Hillary. Stoking anti-Trump derangement was now the order of the day, and Comey had made himself useful in that effort, particularly during March House testimony in which Comey publicly fingered the president’s campaign as a suspect in Russian sabotage. Whatever contempt Democrats might silently harbor for Comey, the president’s firing of him presented a political opportunity to accuse Trump of obstructing the Russia probe. The president, Democrats said, must’ve feared that the FBI director was about to expose a corrupt Trump–Putin conspiracy.
The apoplectic Democratic reaction sent Rod a-reeling, anguished by such taunts as this one by Senator Christopher Murphy of Connecticut: “You wrote a memo you knew would be used to perpetuate a lie. You own this debacle.” Pathos drips from the Friday Times report: Rosenstein grousing that Trump had used him; Rosenstein remorsefully wishing that Comey (whom he’d just portrayed as mutinous and incorrigible) was still running the FBI so the admiring Rod “could bounce ideas off him.”