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Conn. Senators up in arms over threat to Rosenstein

September 25, 2018

WASHINGTON — Connecticut’s Democratic senators said the possible firing of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — the overseer of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia probe — is a grave threat to democracy and the rule of law.

If Rosenstein is fired, which he might be, it will be a ‘break-the-glass’ moment,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who stood with a group of 115 Yale law students at a news conference called to address the other political drama that continued to unfold in Washington, The confirmation battle of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Rosenstein is the Justice Department’s No. 2 behind Attorney General Jeff Sessions. When Sessions recused himself last year from supervision of the Mueller investigation — which President Donald Trump has repeatedly labeled a “hoax” — Rosenstein took it over.

A career federal prosecutor who formerly was U.S. attorney in Maryland, Rosenstein has defended the integrity and independence of the Mueller probe. Trump’s wrath has been trained less on Rosenstein than on Sessions for recusing himself in the first place.

(Sessions did so because of questions raised last year over his own interactions with Russians — a potential conflict in supervising a probe into Russian intelligence efforts to swing the 2016 election to Trump.)

According to various media accounts, Rosenstein spoke to White House officials about resigning in the wake of a New York Times story that said he had discussed invoking the 25th Amendment, which provides an avenue for removing presidents unable to carry out their duties because of illness or other incapacity.

Rosenstein also allegedly discussed secretly recording the president, presumably to facilitate the removal process.

The story reportedly outraged Trump. Rosenstein vigorously denied the charges but discussed his possible resignation with the White House over the weekend, according to reports from AP and other news outlets.

Rosenstein met Monday with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and also spoke to Trump by phone. Trump, who is in New York at the United Nations General Assembly meeting, said the two would meet Thursday when he is back in Washington.

“We will be determining what to do,” Trump told reporters in New York on Monday. “I spoke with Rod today and we’ll see what happens.”

Blumenthal and Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., both have advocated legislation that would insulate the Mueller probe from any effort by Trump to derail it. The legislation has drawn little interest from Republican congressional leaders.

“My hope is Republican colleagues will rise to the challenge and will hold true to their promise that there would be a firestorm if he is fired,” Blumenthal said.

Trump has been “pretty unapologetic in his telegraphing” of dismay over the Mueller investigation and his desire to cut it short, Murphy said.

“The way Rosenstein is being treated underscores why it’s so important for Democrats to win in November,” said Murphy, who faces Republican opponent Matthew Corey on Election Day. “The only check on (presidential) power is a Democratic Congress. We need the people to put a different party in charge of Congress.”

Though behind in the polls, Corey has displayed a showman’s sense of political combat by challenging Murphy to spend a day washing windows in Hartford “to learn what it is like to earn a day’s wages.”

dan@hearstdc.com

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