American Bar Association (ABA)
By Debra Cassens Weiss
Posted Jun 16, 2017 09:04 am CDT
Updated: President Donald Trump apparently confirmed he is under investigation for firing FBI director James Comey in an early morning tweet.
The tweet read: "I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt."
Trump was likely referring to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, according to several media reports, including stories by the New York Times, the Hill and Politico.
Some commentators, however, said Trump could be referring to special counsel Robert Mueller. Rosenstein appointed Mueller following the recusal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the FBI’s probe of Russian influence.
Trump’s tweet could force Rosenstein’s recusal in the Mueller investigation, according to a Bloomberg View article by Harvard law professor Noah Feldman.
If Mueller is investigating Trump’s firing of Comey as possible obstruction of justice, he might want to learn about Trump’s interactions with Rosenstein, the Justice Department official who wrote the memo criticizing Comey’s performance before his firing.
That would mean Rosenstein is a potential witness in the investigation he is overseeing, a point made by Politico in a May 31 article.
Trump’s tweet deepens the potential conflict by asserting that Comey’s firing was Rosenstein’s idea, Feldman says.
If Rosenstein recuses himself, supervision of the Mueller probe would be left to Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, a Harvard law graduate who clerked for Justice Anthony M. Kennedy and ran the Office of Legal Policy at the Justice Department.
"She’s a horse of a different color from career prosecutors such as Rosenstein, Comey and Mueller," Feldman writes. "Her attitude toward the investigation is likely to be a bit different from Rosenstein’s, more informed by the structure of presidential authority and less by unwritten norms of prosecutorial independence."
The Times points out that Trump’s tweet came hours after an "oddly worded" statement by Rosenstein about leaks.
Rosenstein’s statement read: "Americans should exercise caution before accepting as true any stories attributed to anonymous ‘officials,’ particularly when they do not identify the country—let alone the branch or agency of government—with which the alleged sources supposedly are affiliated."
The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that Mueller is investigating possible obstruction of justice by Trump. According to the Post, both Comey and Daniel Coats, director of national Intelligence, have said Trump sought their help in hopes the FBI would drop the investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
The Post’s information on Coats is based on anonymous sources who claimed Trump asked Coats whether he could ask Comey to back off the FBI’s focus on Flynn. Coats reportedly said he didn’t feel pressured however.
Comey’s claim was aired in public congressional testimony on June 8. He testified that, about three months before his firing, Trump pressed him to drop the investigation of Flynn by saying he hoped Comey could let it go. Read more
I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch HuntUpdated at 12:25 p.m. to include information from Bloomberg View article and at 12:40 to correct typos.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 16, 2017