A Letter For Rod Rosenstein To Remember

Before there were internet “memes” there were still plays in words that conveyed huge situations beyond the mere words. One was “A Night To Remember”. Yes, even before the famous movie (and before the sappy and stupid “Titanic” decades later), it was an earlier book about the Titanic disaster. There are daily shipwrecks as significant as that now in the Age of Trump.

Today, specifically, we have the issue of a Titanic level shipwreck President crashing the country out of pettiness and ignorance like the United States has never ostensibly seen in its history.

Yesterday on Twitter, I noted that there was a telling omission in the supposed “justification” memo Rod Rosenstein penned and Trump initially claimed to rely on as basis for firing Comey:

This morning, in what I can only describe as an admirable mea culpa statement that I think will long be remembered, in a good way, Ben Wittes called for Rosenstein to go.

In the end, Trump was able to make set piece out of Rosenstein, because Rosenstein let himself be used as a set piece. And there’s an important lesson in that for the many honorable men and women with pending appointments and nominations to serve in senior levels of the Justice Department—or who are considering accepting such appointments. It took Donald Trump only two weeks to put Rosenstein, a figure of sterling reputation, in the position of choosing between continued service and behaving honorably—and it took only two days after that for the President to announce that Rosenstein’s memo, after all, was nothing more than a Potemkin village designed as a facade on Trump’s predecided outcome.

Do you really want this to be you? Do you really think Trump will not leave your reputation as so much roadkill on the highway after enlisting you in sliming someone else a week or two after you take office?

The lesson here is that these are not honorable people, and they will do their best to drag you down to their level. They will often succeed.

Here we are, and, thankfully, people in and around the Third Branch, especially in the all important Southern District of New York region (from which Comey has come and gone), are fighting back and speaking out with shouts that are from far more than the cheap seats people like me occupy.

Without further adieu, a letter from SDNY luminaries:

May 12, 2017

Rod J. Rosenstein, Esq.
Deputy Attorney General of the United States
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530-0001

Dear Mr. Deputy Attorney General:

We, the undersigned, are former United States Attorneys and Assistant United States Attorneys for the Southern District of New York. In view of the recent termination of James Comey as Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, we are writing to request that you appoint a special counsel to oversee the FBI’s continuing investigation of Russian interference with the 2016 Presidential election and related matters. This letter is addressed to you rather than the Attorney General since he has recused himself from this matter.

As you know, Jim has had a long and distinguished career with the Department of Justice, beginning with his appointment as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York serving under United States Attorneys Rudolph Giuliani, Benito Romano and Otto Obermaier from 1987 through 1993. He returned to the Southern District of New York in 2002 when he was appointed the United States Attorney and served in that capacity until he was confirmed as Deputy Attorney General in 2003. Most of us came to know Jim when he worked in the Southern District of New York. Many of us know him personally. All of us respect him as a highly professional and ethical person who has devoted more than 20 years of his life to public service.

While we do not all necessarily agree with the manner in which he dealt with the conclusion of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, we sincerely believe that his abrupt and belated termination for this conduct, occurring months later and on the heels of his public testimony about his oversight of the investigation of Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election, has the appearance – if not the reality – of interfering with that investigation. Even if this investigation continues unabated, there is a substantial risk that the American people will not have confidence in its results, no matter who is appointed to succeed him, given that the Director of the FBI serves at the pleasure of the President. We believe it is critical in the present political climate and clearly in the public’s interest that this investigation be directed by a truly independent, non-partisan prosecutor who is independent of the Department of Justice, as is contemplated by 28 C.F.R. §600.1.

We are Republicans, Democrats and independents. Most importantly, we are proud alumni and alumnae of the Department of Justice. We do not suggest that you or any other members of the Department of Justice or a newly appointed Director of the FBI would not conduct yourselves properly, but the gravity of this investigation requires that even the appearance of political involvement in this investigation be avoided. As former prosecutors, we believe the only solution in the present circumstances would be to appoint a Special Counsel pursuant to 28 C.F.R. §600.1, and we urge you to take that course.

Respectfully submitted,

Jonathan S. Abernethy Elkan Abramowitz Richard F. Albert
Marcus A. Asner Martin J. Auerbach Miriam Baer
Thomas H. Baer Kerri Martin Bartlett Maria Barton
Andrew Bauer Bernard W. Bell Richard Ben-Veniste
Neil S. Binder Laura Gossfield Birger Ira H. Block
Suzanne Jaffe Bloom Barry A. Bohrer Daniel H. Bookin
Jane E. Booth Katharine Bostick Laurie E. Brecher
David M. Brodsky Stacey Mortiz Brodsky William Bronnermn
Jennifer K. Brown Marshall A. Camp Bennett Capers
Michael Q. Carey Neil S. Cartusciello Sarah Chapman
Robert J. Cleary Brian D. Coad Glenn C. Colton
William Craco Nelson W. Cunningham Constance Cushman
Frederick T. Davis John M. Desmarais Rhea Dignam
Gregory L. Diskant Philip L. Douglas Sean Eskovitz
Jesse T. Fardella Meir Feder Ira M. Feinberg
Michael S. Feldberg Steven D. Feldman Edward T. Ferguson
David Finn Eric P. Fisher Sharon E. Frase
Steven I. Froot Maria T. Galeno Catherine Gallo
Robert Garcia Kay K. Gardiner Ronald L. Garnett
Scott Gilbert Barbara S. Gillers Mark Godsey
Joshua A. Goldberg James A. Goldston Mark P. Goodman
George I. Gordon Sheila Gowan Stuart GraBois
Paul R. Grand Helen Gredd Bruce Green
Marc L. Greenwald Jamie Gregg James G. Greilsheimer
Jane Bloom Grise Nicole Gueron Barbara Guss
Steven M. Haber Jonathan Halpern David Hammer
Jeffrey Harris Mark D. Harris Roger J. Hawke
Steven P. Heineman Mark R. Hellerer William Hibsher
Jay Holtmeier John R. Horan Patricia M. Hynes
Linda Imes Douglas Jensen James Kainen
Eugene Kaplan Steven M. Kaplan William C. Komaroff
David Koenigsberg Cynthia Kouril Mary Ellen Kris
Stephen Kurzman Nicole LaBarbera Kerry Lawrence
Sherry Leiwant Jane A. Levine Annmarie Levins
Raymond A. Levites Donna H. Lieberman Jon Liebman
Sarah E. Light Jon Lindsey Robin A. Linsenmayer
Edward J.M. Little Mary Shannon Little Walter Loughlin
Daniel Margolis Walter Mack Kathy S. Marks
Mark E. Matthews Marvin S. Mayell Sharon L. McCarthy
James J. McGuire Joan McPhee Christine Meding
Paul K. Milmed Judith L. Mogul David E. Montgomery
Lynn Neils Peter Neiman Rosemary Nidiry
Tai H. Park Robert M. Pennoyer Elliott R. Peters
Michael Pinnisi Robert Plotz Henry Putzel
T. Gorman Reilly Emily Reisbaum Peter Rient
Roland G. Riopelle Michael A. Rogoff Benito Romano
Amy Rothstein Thomas C. Rubin Daniel S. Ruzumna
Robert W. Sadowski Elliot G. Sagor Peter Salerno
Joseph F. Savage John F. Savarese Edward Scarvalone
Kenneth I. Schacter Frederick Schaffer Gideon A. Schor
Julian Schreibman Wendy Schwartz Linda Severin
David Siegal Marjorie A. Silver Paul H. Silverman
Charles Simon Carolyn L. Simpson David Sipiora
Dietrich L. Snell Peter Sobol Ira Lee Sorkin
David W. Spears Katherine Stanton Franklin H. Stone
Richard M. Strassberg Howard S. Sussman Erika Thomas
Richard Toder Timothy J. Treanor Paula Tuffin
Peter Vigeland David Wales Max Wild
Samuel J. Wilson Elaine Wood Paulette Wunsch
Thomas Zaccaro Ellen Zimiles
cc: Jefferson B. Sessions III, Esq.
Attorney General of the United States

This letter reflects the signers’ personal views, not of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, the U.S. Department of Justice, or any other government agency.

But it is STRONG. And it is hard to not love it completely. It is raw, and it is real. Nobody asks defense attorneys to sign these missives, nor would anybody give them credit for having done so, were they asked.

This letter, however, is from the elite of the elite prosecutors, with SDNY historic names attached to it (and sometimes significant family names you may not notice), and there are a LOT of them. Almost wonder who did “not” sign on to it?

So, what does it mean?

A LOT. If you know how District level US Attorney offices run, but especially the hallowed ground in SDNY, then you know just how unusual and remarkable is this collective letter.

Think I mentioned “stunning” earlier. It is all that.

Why? Because the problem in the US is here, and it is now. It is bigger than Red versus Blue. It is bigger than Me versus You. It is bigger than all that. There is a fracture in the very machinery governance itself runs on.

The clockworks of governance are buggered. “We are Republicans, Democrats and independents.” And we all deserve better than the orange narcissist piloting the nation into an iceberg.

Bmaz is a rather large saguaro cactus in the Southwestern Sonoran desert. A lover of the Constitution, law, family, sports, food and spirits. As you might imagine, a bit prickly occasionally. Bmaz has attended all three state universities in Arizona, with both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Arizona State University, and with significant post-graduate work (in physics and organic chemistry, go figure) at both the University of Colorado in Boulder and the University of Arizona. Married, with both a lovely child and a giant Sasquatch dog. Bmaz has been a participant on the internet since the early 2000’s, including active participation in the precursor to Emptywheel, The Next Hurrah. Formally joined the Emptywheel blog as an original contributing member at its founding in 2007. Bmaz grew up around politics, education, sports and, most significantly, cars; notably around Formula One racing and Concours de Elegance automobile restoration and showing. Currently lives in the Cactus Patch with his lovely wife and beast of a dog, and practices both criminal and civil trial law.

26 replies
  1. rosalind says:

    sing out, Louise!  er, thank you for this bmaz. we are certainly at the cusp of taking back our democracy for We The People, or….

    (and me out of wine)

    • Peterr says:

      (and me out of wine)

      That’s just sad.

      Nobody asks defense attorneys to sign these missives, nor would anybody give them credit for having done so, were they asked. This letter, however, is from the elite of the elite prosecutors . . .

      Indeed. This is a very big deal, with folks who have devoted decades to prosecuting wrongdoing.

      And the Trump White House is likely to not see any of this. “Just a bunch of liberals whining about losing the last election.”

      Um, no. Not even close.

  2. John Casper says:

    bmaz,

    Thank you.

    Per you, the letter is measured and pitch perfect.

    Deeply impressed by the courage of the “undersigned.”

    • MarkH says:

      It is immediately a “Trump’s Enemies List”, though he may not ever read it or realize it exists.

    • Summerstorm says:

      It immediately is a “Trump’s Enemies List”, though Trump may never know of it or read it.

  3. Peterr says:

    The more I think about it, the more amazing that letter is.

    Has there been anything like it in the past?

  4. Teddy says:

    Well, that’s certainly going to piss off 45. And his Keebler Sheriff Jeff, too.

    I expect some tweets as soon as some one gets the courage to tell Lord Dampnut. I wonder if he’ll call Rudi to yell about it. There are some of his folks among the signatories, yes?

    Courage…!

    Onward…!

  5. pdaly says:

    This letter is encouraging.

    Assuming an investigation goes through unimpeded and assuming the Trump team is found guilty of conspiring with Russia to win the Presidential Election, what would the remedy be?
    In sports usually the medal is taken from the cheater and given to the second place finisher.

  6. looseheadprop says:

    Understand this USAO SDNY alumni. Not people currently serving who, as hatch Act employees, have more restrictions on them.  Many of the signatories are not Dems.

    Although I have no clue if such a thing is in the works, it would not be inappropriate for other former (or current state) law enforcement to do something similar.  It would be interesting to know how the 50 state AGs come down on this, or DA’s. Or former FBI directors.

    • bmaz says:

      There are only twenty who have joined that effort, including the DC AG. Effort being led by Maura Healy of MA. I don’t think any of them are Republicans, but there may be one I missed.

  7. harpie says:

    There ARE “a LOT of them”-179 to be exact!

    Thanks for this, bmaz.

    *

    And from SDNY Twitter:

    @SDNYnews announces $5.9M settlement of civil money laundering & forfeiture claims connected to Russian tax fraud/Acting USAtty Kim: We will not allow the US financial system to be used to launder proceeds of crimes committed anywhere-here or in Russia

  8. Ed Walker says:

    That letter feels like a cry of anguish from people who understand and love the legal system. We don’t have to agree on outcome in any particular case  to understand their horror at this obvious interference with an investigation.

    The link from arbusto above tells us Rosenstein is a willing tool of Trumpy. That toad either fires or corrupts everything and everyone in his path,

    • Ed Walker says:

      The link from arbusto also claims that Rosenstein “threatened to resign” over being made a patsy. That’s just sad.

  9. Greenhouse says:

    ‘For our last number, I’d like to ask your help. Will the people in the cheaper seats clap your hands? And for the rest of you, if you’ll just rattle your jewelry…’

    Cheers Bmaz!

  10. Desider says:

    What’s your thought to the view (Marcie’s point?) that the Acting Director is pretty much a Comey man so will continue as before, while has more power than a special prosecutor would have?

  11. GKJames says:

    And where are the country’s Constitutionalists and law-and-order types on the airwaves and in Congress who perpetually lecture us about liberty and Founding Fathers? How that intellectually and morally bankrupt ethos continues to find an audience is beyond me.

  12. Bill Michtom says:

    I still fail to see how Comey can deserve respect after denying that Dylann Roof’s slaughter of nine black churchgoers was terrorism, even though Roof left one person alive specifically so she could tell folks he wanted to start a race war.

  13. Kathleen says:

    Thanks for this Bmaz.  So who is Trump in the “sappy” Trumptanic movie? The captain who orders the ship to go at full tilt or the bourgeoisie dude trying to lay Kate Winslet?  Both of them shoot themselves.  Not that I am suggesting anything however Trump has elements of both of those characters.   Doomed it appears

    What got into Rosenstein?  He had to know what he was doing.  Why would he be willing to hitch his stellar reputation to a sinking ship?

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