Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, in an exclusive interview with Fox News that aired Wednesday night, stood by his recommendation that President Trump fire then-FBI Director James Comey and his hiring of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a special counsel to oversee the Bureau’s investigation into Russian activities during last year’s election.
"I’ve testified several times about this and yes, I do," Rosenstein told "The Story with Martha MacCallum" when asked if he stood by his now-famous memo recommending Comey’s dismissal.
In the May 9 memo, Rosenstein said that Comey "was wrong to usurp the Attorney General’s authority" on July 5, 2016, when Comey announced that he would not recommend that Hillary Clinton be prosecuted for alleged offenses related to the presence of classified information on her personal email server.
"At most, [Comey] should have said the FBI had completed its investigation and presented its findings to federal prosecutors," Rosenstein wrote at the time. "The FBI Director is never empowered to supplant federal prosecutors and assume command of the Justice Department."
"There’s a principle in the Department of Justice," Rosenstein told Fox News’ Martha MacCallum, "that when we are investigating people, we do it confidentially."
"If we decide not to prosecute," he added, "we don’t make any disparaging comments about the people we investigate," an apparent reference to Comey’s harsh criticism of Clinton even as he announced she would not be charged.
Rosenstein also expressed disapproval when asked about Comey’s recent admission that he enlisted a friend to leak memos of Comey’s conversations with President Trump to the New York Times.
"As a general proposition, you have to understand the Department of Justice. We take confidentiality seriously, so when we have memoranda about our ongoing matters, we have an obligation to keep that confidential," Rosenstein said.
When asked if he would prohibit releasing memos related to a discussion with the president, the deputy attorney general said, "I think it is quite clear … we have a responsibility to the people who we are investigating, we have a responsibility to the people conducting those investigations, to keep our investigations confidential."
Comey’s firing led to Rosenstein’s appointment of Mueller to oversee the probe of Russian meddling in the presidential campaign, as well as alleged coordination between Russian officials and Trump associates. The appointment has caused some criticism due to the close relationship between Comey and Mueller.
"I made the decision to appoint Director Mueller based upon his reputation," said Rosenstein, who insisted that "if there were conflicts that arose, because of Director Mueller or anybody employed by Director Mueller, we have a process within the [Justice Department] to take care of that."
Rosenstein also said that the Trump administration was "providing all appropriate cooperation to make sure that [the] investigation is done properly" and said Mueller was "not reporting to me about individual decisions" during his probe.
"What we want to be able to do is at the end of the day … say that we appointed somebody who was independent, who made independent decisions, and therefore we can have confidence in the result that they reach."