The deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, privately complained that he was ordered by president #Donald Trump to write the notorious memo justifying the firing of the FBI director James Comey, according to Comey’s former deputy.
Andrew McCabe writes in a new book that Rosenstein, who has publicly defended the memo, lamented that the president had directed him to rationalise Comey’s dismissal, which is now the subject of inquiries into whether Trump obstructed justice.
Rosenstein made his remarks in a private meeting at the justice department on 12 May 2017, according to McCabe’s memoir, which also accuses Trump of operating like a criminal mob boss and of unleashing a “strain of insanity” in American public life.
McCabe recalls Rosenstein being “glassy-eyed”, visibly upset and sounding emotional after coming to believe the White House was using him as a scapegoat for Comey’s dismissal.
“He said it wasn’t his idea. The president had ordered him to write the memo justifying the firing,” McCabe writes. Rosenstein said he was having trouble sleeping, McCabe writes. “There’s no one here that I can trust,” he is quoted as saying.
McCabe’s book, The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump, is due on sale later this month. A copy was obtained by the Guardian prior to its release.
The account supports reports last year that Rosenstein was left “shaken” by his role in Comey’s firing. It provides the strongest indication so far that Rosenstein’s private view on the memo clashed with his testimony to Congress saying: “I wrote it. I believe it. I stand by it.”
His memo was cited by Trump as a reason to fire Comey over his handling of the #FBI inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s email use as secretary of state. Trump later said that he in fact fired Comey for pursuing the investigation into his presidential campaign’s links with Russia.
At the time, the White House flatly denied that Trump had directed Rosenstein to write a justification for firing Comey. “It was all him,” Sean Spicer, the then press secretary, said of Rosenstein.
Five days after his emotional remarks, Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller, the special counsel, to take over the inquiry into whether Trump’s team coordinated with Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. US authorities concluded Russia aimed to help Trump.
Mueller is also known to be investigating whether Trump sought to obstruct justice by firing Comey and taking other steps to impede the investigation.
McCabe, a 22-year FBI veteran who was fired after internal investigators said he had been dishonest, is scathing about a president he views as posing a threat to the country. He accuses Trump of undermining the FBI out of fear and diminishing the rule of law.
In his sharpest criticism, McCabe writes that after firing Comey, Trump and the White House counsel, Don McGahn, acted like mobsters by in effect offering McCabe protection in return for loyalty.