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Rod Rosenstein, deputy attorney general at this writing but maybe not by your reading, is the man whom the preposterous Russian-endorsed second-place president calls a central villain in a conspiracy by "Democrat loyalists" to engage in a witch-hunt against him.

The Democratic affiliation is a new one for Rosenstein, a Republican before Republicanism adapted to its dramatic new leader by going nuts.

In 1995-96, a 30-year-old Rosenstein--out of Penn and Harvard Law--was an up-and-comer on Republican justice-abuser Ken Starr's staff as Starr window-peeped on Bill Clinton.

Starr eventually got the tomcat Clinton on oral-sex receipt and lying about it.

Clinton shouldn't have lied about it. For that matter, he shouldn't have done the other, at least not when he did it. Sexual misbehavior in the 1990s was not yet the impetus for an approval-rating spike that it has become in Donald Trump's time, which history will record as The Era When the Religious Right Quit Even Pretending.

In 2005, then-President George W. Bush, a Republican in good standing because of starting bogus wars and cutting rich people's taxes, nominated Rosenstein to be the U.S. attorney for Maryland.

Rosenstein was the longest-serving U.S. attorney in the country when, last April, he became deputy attorney general to that flaming anti-Trump liberal, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III.

What happened is that the Justice Department really had no choice but to investigate evidence of Russian tampering in our election, including the element that the Trump campaign might have benefited either by malevolent intent or pure naïve luck. Sessions, the Trump-appointed attorney general, asked his staff what the Justice Department's ethical guidelines said about his situation of heading a department about to embark on an investigation that would entail at least peripherally the Trump campaign that he had been a part of.

Sessions' staff told him that it seemed by the book that he ought to recuse and let deputy Rosenstein lead the Russia investigation. Sessions obliged.

Trump blew a gasket. He said Sessions should have told him beforehand that he intended to be ethical in which case he never would have made him attorney general.

All that served to install Rosenstein as the top dog in the Justice Department for the Russia investigation.

That was fine with Trump when he fired FBI director James Comey for insisting on investigating Russia, even though Comey had delivered him the presidency by smearing Hillary Clinton.

After the firing of Comey, Trump needed to concoct some basis for the firing--beyond what he told Russian officials, which was that things were going to be better for them now that he'd gotten rid of Comey. Rosenstein had dutifully produced a memo saying that Comey had messed up some things, mainly the Hillary Clinton matter.

But then, because he seems to be a competent justice-system professional beneath his perfectly credible pre-nuts Republicanism, Rosenstein--being, remember, effectively the attorney general for the Russia matter because Sessions had enraged Trump by being ethical--decided a special counsel was needed.

He selected another perfectly fine Republican of the pre-crazy era, Robert Mueller, whose bona fides were solid. Mueller went to Princeton. He was a Marine veteran of Vietnam with a Purple Heart. He was a Reagan appointee to the acting U.S. attorney's post in Massachusetts. He was a George W. Bush appointee to head the FBI, after which Barack Obama--who was not worried about self-protection or partisan allegiance in the Justice Department as Trump is--reappointed him.

So, to bring this up to date: Mueller has his head down and is doing his work without a high personal profile.

In recent days, Mueller presumably went to his boss, Rosenstein, with information he'd come across raising probable cause to suspect bank fraud by Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen. He asked what he should do.

Rosenstein and Mueller settled on a restrained course of action--farming the Russia-unrelated information to a U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan, run by a Trump supporter who recused himself. That office then convinced a judge it needed a warrant to raid the Trump lawyer's office and home because probable cause existed to suspect a crime as well as that Cohen might not comply with a subpoena.

Then Trump went crazier and said the Ken Starr agent and George W. nominee--that's Rosenstein, remember--was a Democratic conspirator and that he might fire him and replace him with someone who would put the quietus on Mueller's investigation.

What all that means is that I buried the lead, which, as George Will put it the other day, was hiding in plain sight all along: Donald Trump became implausibly even more irrational last week because he desperately has something to hide.

Programming note: Watch James Comey get interviewed at 9 o'clock tonight on ABC. They are saying Comey compares Trump to a mob boss, surely a combination of Sonny's self-control and Fredo's intellect.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Editorial on 04/15/2018

Print Headline: The story so far

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  • Rightside
    April 15, 2018 at 8:36 a.m.

    JB starts with a few lies. JB Russia did not endorse Trump. He came in first, won the presidency. Trump never called Rosenstein a central villain in a conspiracy. JB says Trump called Rosenstein a Democratic conspirator where is your proof?
    Bill Clinton was impeach for perjury in the Jones case and one accusing Clinton of abuse of power. Bill Clinton was disbarred from practicing law in Arkansas and was also disbarred from practicing law in front of the Supreme Court over the Lewinsky incident and fined $25,000. And paid Paula Jones $850,000 for sexual harassment.
    What happen to Trump Russia collusion? WE had 24/7 on CNN and MSNBC and Media networks Russian Collusion for a year. Not one ounce of proof of any Trump Russia collusion has come forward. Russia, Russia, Russia all they could talk about. The only collusion was Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee who helped fund the research behind the Russian dossier, colluding with russian agents and a retired British spy.
    Why Rosenstein fired Comey "I agree with the nearly unanimous opinions of former Department officials. 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. Having refused to admit his errors, the Director cannot be expected to implement the necessary corrective actions."
    And remember there was a list of democrats wanting Comey fired, old Harry Reid was the top one, the leader of the Senate Democrats.
    Trump is not going to fire Rosenstein or Mueller. But JB, democrats and some media wants him to fire them.

  • RobertBolt
    April 15, 2018 at 9:51 a.m.

    Mr. Brummett's statements of fact are true, and his statements of opinion are supported by reason applied to facts, so stumpers for Trump are sure to hate this commentary. That is okay. No drowning man loves an anchor, but those aboard a seaworthy ship consider it a great thing.

  • RobertBolt
    April 15, 2018 at 9:53 a.m.

    And I could not care less who Trump does or does not fire. He is already drowning with plenty of people tossing him another anchor.

  • Rightside
    April 15, 2018 at 10:20 a.m.

    Boltar: I don's hate his commentary. He can say anything he wants too. I can agree or disagree.

  • RobertBolt
    April 15, 2018 at 10:25 a.m.

    It is presumptuous to assume my comments are all about or to you, Rightside. You and I are just individual commenters, so get over yourself.

  • TimberTopper
    April 15, 2018 at 10:34 a.m.

    rightside, like it has been said by many others, you are entitled to your own opinion, but not your set of facts. Your first sentence is the starting place of you trying to use your own set of facts, and that won't pass the test. Better luck next time! Be sure when you accuse you have the facts!

  • Packman
    April 15, 2018 at 10:45 a.m.

    This article has ZERO credibility when Brummett blames Hillary's whopping defeat on Comey. Hillary lost because she was a terrible candidate and ignored Wisconsin.
    Regardless it's time President Trump fired Mueller, Sessions, and Rosenstein. The Mueller investigation is an effort by political elites, self-proclaimed democrats and republicans alike, to overturn the results of the 2016 election and disenfranchise 60 million or so honest, decent, good Americans. The raid on Cohen's office and associated fishing expedition after striking out on the Trump/Russia collusion angle is evidence of the bloodless coup attempt. It's time to stop it in its tracks before the attempted coup is no longer bloodless.
    Is it coincidence political elites are wanting to ban guns at the same time the coup is underway? Maybe. And maybe not. #comeatusbro

  • PopMom
    April 15, 2018 at 10:56 a.m.


    All of Brummett's facts are in Trump's own tweets. Here is one of the:

    "Much of the bad blood with Russia is caused by the Fake & Corrupt Russia Investigation, headed up by the all Democrat loyalists, or people that worked for Obama. Mueller is most conflicted of all (except Rosenstein who signed FISA & Comey letter). No Collusion, so they go crazy!"

    There has been much evidence of Trump/Russian collusion. For one, many of the Trump campaign people met with Russians and received funds from them. Russia placed ads on Trump's behalf. Russia tried to hack into voting systems on Trump's behalf. Trump associate Roger Stone seemed to know about the Wikileaks dump of Hillary's emails before it happened.

  • GeneralMac
    April 15, 2018 at 12:36 p.m.

    JB's very first sentence................"second place president"

    Donald Trump.....304
    Hillary Clinton.....227

    When you mention " second place" you must be referring to Hillary but Hillary is not ( and never will be) president.

    Quite evident her and you can't accept those FACTS.

  • mozarky2
    April 15, 2018 at 1:48 p.m.

    PM, Hillary received tens of millions from Russia. Where's your indignation over that?