The story has shifted yet again. The last word we heard from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is that he’ll remain on the job at least until Special Counsel Robert Mueller has completed his work – yet the media keeps reporting that Rosenstein is about to resign. Now the media is even reporting that Donald Trump has picked a replacement. So what’s going on?
It started back in January, when a major news outlet reported that Rod Rosenstein was preparing to resign once William Barr was confirmed as the new Attorney General. Rosenstein immediately shot this down, going through his associates to inform NBC News that he was staying for as long as Mueller was staying. But Rosenstein remaining on the job wasn’t a ratings friendly story, and the scary prospect of him imminently quitting was perfect for ratings, so the media mostly ignored Rosenstein’s own words, and spent the next month claiming that Rosenstein was about to quit.
Then on Monday, NBC News reported that Rod Rosenstein was indeed planning to resign in mid March. Wait, wasn’t this the same network that had previously reported Rosenstein’s assertion that he wasn’t leaving, and then spent the next month ignoring its own reporting? Palmer Report pointed out that these stories about Rosenstein quitting were almost surely being planted by Donald Trump and his people, because Trump desperately wants Rosenstein out, but doesn’t seem to have the guts or political muscle to fire him. As long as the media kept breathlessly hyping Trump’s leaks about Rosenstein resigning, it could end up sabotaging Rosenstein’s ability to remain on the job.
Now tonight we have a new twist. Major media outlets are reporting that Donald Trump has settled on a replacement for Rod Rosenstein. Just to make things even more confusing, Rosenstein’s supposed replacement has the similar name of Jeffrey Rosen; perhaps Trump truly is delusional enough to think people might not notice the difference.
But if we know anything about Rod Rosenstein based on watching him in action the past year and a half, it’s that he will never resign unless he thinks Robert Mueller is on a 100% safe path to the finish line. That leaves only three possibilities. 1) These media leaks are all one big bluff by Trump to try to force Rosenstein out. 2) Rosenstein is leaving, because he’s concluded that new AG William Barr will protect Mueller. 3) Rosenstein is leaving because he expects Mueller to finish Trump off by mid March. Take your pick.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report