In appointing Robert Mueller, Rod Rosenstein may have saved the republic—but also Donald Trump
The pending release of a book from former acting Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe, and an interview with 60 Minutes McCabe has done to promote the book, have placed fresh emphasis on a few days in the middle of May 2017—days in which the Justice Department seriously considered mounting an effort to dislodge Trump from office. For eight days, between the time FBI Director James Comey was fired and the time special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed, it appears that the threat of the government being ripped in half was very real.
Even at the time, the events of that period seemed chaotic, and as more information has appeared over the passing months, it’s become clear that the public saw only the slightest hint of what was happening behind closed doors. During this period:
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein fretted about the real reasons that Comey was fired. He reportedly lost sleep over his role in preparing a memo used as a cover story, felt “used” by the White House, worried that he had done damage to the country, and offered to wear a wire in meetings with Trump.
Rather than closing the existing investigation into Trump and Russia, the FBI under McCabe opened two new investigations: one into Trump’s attempts to obstruct justice, and one into whether or not Donald Trump was a knowing operative of Russia intentionally damaging American interests.
Top officials in the Justice Department met—more than once—to seriously discuss whether it would be possible to gain the support of Mike Pence and a majority of Trump’s Cabinet for having him declared unfit for office under provisions of the 25th Amendment.
What’s emerging is a picture in which the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller by Rosenstein on May 17, 2017, was not at all an attack on Trump, but a desperate compromise; a bid to hold the nation’s leadership together by offering a means for going forward rather than sinking into competing star-chamber factions. As strange as it may seem, the appointment of Mueller may have actually kept Trump in office, at least temporarily, and it almost certainly saved the nation from even greater chaos.
With that in mind, and with the new information that’s become available since that time, here’s a fresh look at a few extraordinary days in May 2017.