After Donald Trump greenlit the release of a controversial memo compiled by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, which was reported in advance of its release to present a picture of overwhelming criminality and abuse of power by leaders in the FBI and the Department of Justice, the president was asked by reporters in the Oval Office whether or not he planned to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who has had the position of oversight of the Robert Mueller investigation into the Trump administration’s possible collusion with Russia since Jeff Sessions recused himself, to which Trump answered, according to a CNN report, “You figure that one out.”
On Friday the Nunes memo was released. It had been the subject of a major hashtag campaign, #ReleaseTheMemo, much of which may have been the product of Russian bots, according to an article in Newsweek, as well as being heavily hyped by right-wing media sources such as Sean Hannity and Breitbart News. According to an article in the Huffington Post, Donald Trump had hoped the memo would be a smoking gun that so clearly outlined intelligence community abuses that it would allow him to put an end to the Mueller investigation once and for all.
The memo was purported to show that the FBI and the DOJ had acted with political bias and had abused their power in using the now infamous Steele dossier as the basis for a FISA warrant on Trump campaign advisor Carter Page. The only problem was, as has been reported by Vox, the memo actually proves nothing of the kind, with multiple media outlets, including Vox and the Huffington Post, going so far as to call the memo a “dud.”
This didn’t stop Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.), according to an article in the Washington Post, from declaring that he would seek criminal prosecution for Rosenstein and other Justice Department officials, whom he branded as “traitors to our nation.”
Donald Trump, for his part, woke up Friday morning ready to do battle with the FBI and the DOJ, tweeting about what he perceived as shocking political bias against him.
The top Leadership and Investigators of the FBI and the Justice Department have politicized the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans – something which would have been unthinkable just a short time ago. Rank & File are great people!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 2, 2018
This led to the memo’s release and the scene in the Oval Office Friday, where Trump was asked not only if he planned to fire Rosenstein but also if he still had confidence in his deputy attorney general. Trump answered both questions with, according to the Washington Post, a scowl on his face and the line, “You figure that one out.”
The Washington Post goes on to report that House and Senate Democrats wrote the White House on Friday, declaring that they were worried that the president intended to use the memo as a pretext for firing Rosenstein or somehow shutting down the Mueller investigation.
“Firing Rod Rosenstein, DOJ Leadership, or Bob Mueller could result in a constitutional crisis of the kind not seen since the Saturday Night Massacre.”
A spokesman for the president, according to a report from The Hill, announced Friday that Trump has no plans on firing either Rosenstein or Mueller at this time.