‘Absurd:’ Former DOJ official defends Rosenstein from New York Times’ accusation

FILE - In this July 13, 2018, file photo, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein speaks during a news conference at the Department of Justice in Washington. Rosenstein is denying a report in The New York Times that he suggested last year that he secretly record President Donald Trump in the White House to expose the chaos in the administration. Rosenstein says the story is “inaccurate and factually incorrect.” (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

WASHINGTON — Days after The New York Times reported that Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein floated using a wire to record President Trump and broached invoking the 25th Amendment last year, a longtime friend of the deputy attorney general tells WTOP that the accusations are “absurd.”

“The idea that Rod Rosenstein would be seriously considering using the 25th Amendment to disqualify a sitting president is just laughable,” said Jim Trusty, a former Department of Justice official who has known and worked with Rosenstein for 18 years. “I mean this is a guy who’s a constitutional scholar, a longtime prosecutor, a very intelligent person; and the notion that he would be sitting around a table, planning this coup saying: ‘we’re going to enlist other people to get the president knocked out of office’ is just crazy.”

The 25th Amendment allows for the vice president and a majority of officials to declare the president unfit and remove him or her from office. Talk of invoking the amendment has been swirling around the presidency, documented most notably in The New York Times anonymous op-ed and Bob Woodward’s book, Fear.

But Trusty says the amendment is intended for reasons like incapacity from medical issues, such as when former President Ronald Reagan underwent surgery after being shot. And Trusty says Rosenstein knows this.

“It’s not about just getting rid of a president because you don’t like his politics or his behavior or his words,” Trusty said. “So the idea that it’s being floated to The New York Times that he was a party to something like that is just absurd.”

While the article describes the atmosphere of the Justice Department days after FBI Director James Comey’s firing, Trusty believes the report is telling of something much more.

“One reaction was to laugh at the absurdity of it because I just don’t believe it for a minute; but then the other reaction was to think about how seriously someone is out to get him,” Trusty said. “I mean that’s a pretty sharp knife to try to put in his back.”

Sources in The New York Times article describe Rosenstein’s behavior as erratic and emotional after Comey’s firing. Rosenstein disputed the Times’ account, calling it “inaccurate and factually incorrect.”

And, from Trusty’s experience, that’s not how he knows Rosenstein to be, either.

“This is a guy who takes ethics very seriously and doesn’t stray,” Trusty said. “He goes about it in a very mature, kind of calm fashion.”

Talking specifically about the allegations around Rosenstein’s emotional state, Trusty says: “That was just ludicrous to me. There’s no way that happened.”

Trusty says while Rosenstein has a sense of humor, he doesn’t believe Rosenstein would joke about something as serious as the 25th amendment.

“It’s like the movie ‘Awakenings’ — when he cracks a joke, you kind of can’t believe it’s happening,” Trusty said. “…But there’s absolutely no way he said anything that’s remotely promoting of that aspect — promoting of the idea that the president is incapacitated under the constitution and that they could pursue this kind of bloodless coup against him.”

Trusty has known Rosenstein as a “pretty serious character” and a “button-down, by-the-book guy,” and he doesn’t see Rosenstein straying from that.

“From the beginning, Rod has always proven to have incredible serious prosecutorial ethics and I don’t think that’s changed,” Trusty said. “He’s got a much wider hot spotlight than ever, but he’s the same guy I’ve known for 18 years and he takes his responsibilities very seriously.”

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report. 


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