NYT Gives Trump His Excuse to Fire Rod Rosenstein

The NYT has an inflammatory article claiming that Rod Rosenstein floated recording the President and/or invoking the 25th Amendment in the days after Trump fired Jim Comey. Here’s how they describe their sources for that allegation.

Several people described the episodes, insisting on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. The people were briefed either on the events themselves or on memos written by F.B.I. officials, including Andrew G. McCabe, then the acting bureau director, that documented Mr. Rosenstein’s actions and comments.

Not a single one of these people, by this description, was actually a witness to the episodes. Indeed, by description, none of them have even read the memos memorializing the events directly, but have instead simply been briefed secondhand.

Which means the NYT gives far, far greater weight in this story on people who are third-hand from the story than, for example, either Rod Rosenstein himself or a person who was present and issued a statement, who says this whole story takes a sarcastic comment and treats it as truth.

Rosenstein disputed this account.

“The New York Times’s story is inaccurate and factually incorrect,” he said in a statement. “I will not further comment on a story based on anonymous sources who are obviously biased against the department and are advancing their own personal agenda. But let me be clear about this: Based on my personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment.”

A Justice Department spokeswoman also provided a statement from a person who was present when Mr. Rosenstein proposed wearing a wire. The person, who would not be named, acknowledged the remark but said Mr. Rosenstein made it sarcastically.

All that leads the NYT to the paragraph where they let a bunch of third hand sources to the events claim this is proof that Rosenstein was acting erratically when he made the decision to appoint Robert Mueller.

[T]hey called Mr. Rosenstein’s comments an example of how erratically he was behaving while he was taking part in the interviews for a replacement F.B.I. director, considering the appointment of a special counsel and otherwise running the day-to-day operations of the more than 100,000 people at the Justice Department.

Finally, in a week where Trump is desperate to release documents that will discredit the investigation closing in on himself, Andrew McCabe’s attorney, Michael Bromwich raises real questions about how the NYT might get memos McCabe wrote documenting Rosenstein’s behavior.

His memos have been turned over to the special counsel investigating whether Trump associates conspired with Russia’s election interference, Robert S. Mueller III, according to a lawyer for Mr. McCabe. “A set of those memos remained at the F.B.I. at the time of his departure in late January 2018,” the lawyer, Michael R. Bromwich, said of his client. “He has no knowledge of how any member of the media obtained those memos.”

The insinuation is clear: in an attempt to accuse Rosenstein of things known to set off the President (notably, being recorded), someone took memos McCabe wrote and read them to people who would then leak them to the NYT.

I hope the clicks and access are worth giving third hand sources more weight than actual witnesses.

Update: And Jim Jordan pipes up, sounding very much like he could be one of the sources for this story.

60 replies
    • Michael Schmitt says:

      Mike Schmidt is on my schmidtlist. I used to like him, now I will turn him off when he shows up on MSNBC.

  1. Pete says:

    I “assume” Trump figures anonymous sourced statements in the “failing” NYT is fake news – unless it suits him otherwise.

    • Matt G says:

      Another NYT Judy Miller moment?

      BTW great blog – I’m pretty new but it’s become my first stop on the daily DT WTF rounds…

  2. sam says:

    The NYT has been pitiful on the entire Russian Investigation for a while.  They should hire a real lawyer to vet all of this nonsense, instead of their current strategy of hiring ex-politico reporters who report gossip and palace intrigue (i.e. access journalism)

    • Bob Conyers says:

      To be honest, these days I think Politico has been working harder at maintaining some kind of standards than the NY Times.

      You have to assume the editorial staff at the Times is openly advocating for this kind of junk.

  3. Eutectic says:

    So the NY Times has just stopped pretending that their sources aren’t agitprop from the Trump White House. So blatant.

    This whole period reminds me of Judith Miller and the NY Times beating the war drum for Iraq II.

  4. Bob Conyers says:

    My guess is someone brought up news articles or Capitol Hill chatter about recording Trump and the 25th, and Rosenstein discussed all of the legal problems with those things.

    I think the idea that he was a part of some kind of conspiracy is nuts. They have taken a case of Rosenstein doing exactly what his position demanded – discussing legal issues – and they have turned it into advocacy, without a scrap of evidence.

    This is grounds for burning sources and/or firing reporters if the Times is wrong, and I strongly suspect they are.

    • Bob Conyers says:

      Now the Washington Post is reporting no evidence of Rosenstein advocating for the 25th.

      Furthermore, the only sign of Rosenstein talking about recordings is a sarcastic reponse to a proposal by McCabe to open an investigation into Trump, wih Rosenstein saying something like “what do you want to do, wire the President?”

      In other words, the Times really blew this story. Fire the reporters, fire the editors, burn the sources.

  5. getouttahere says:

    Lookie here. Not over there at the confirmation process for an insignificant judicial appointment to the Supreme Fucken’ Court.

  6. LowdenF23c says:

    The events and purported memos in the NYT story are around 18 months old. What has stimulated this information to emerge now, cicada-like, from the muck of the current news cycle? What is is trying to distract from? The Kavanuagh hearings next week? Or the fact Lanny Davis confirmed that Michael Cohen provided “critical information” to Mueller and was seen at the federal courthouse in NYC today?

  7. Dano says:

    “someone” at DOJ, working to help the White House by undermining the DAG? Like Ezra Cohen Watnick, the former NSC staffer and current Sessions advisor who famously helped facilitate the Nunes midnight ride?

    • Rayne says:

      Nice to see you again at emptywheel. Please use the same username each time you login so community members get to know you. You were last logged in as Dan DH. Thanks.

  8. obsessed says:

    Either: NYT never learns (Judy Miller, election eve headline about FBI finding no Trump-Russia connection, this); or they’re in the bag. Either way, it’s just appalling.

  9. Tracy says:

    Welp, there goes Rosenstein, and there goes our democracy.

    Thanks, NYT. I hope in retrospect you will find it was worth it. Like you did when expressing remorse for the “nothing to see here” article on Trump and Russia, and for both-sides-ing it w/ Clinton, which did nothing to help the outcome of an election that brought us a step closer to the annihilation of our democracy – now we are one step closer still, thanks to more TERRIBLE “reporting.” It is so disingenuous and self-serving, it’s gobsmacking.

  10. klynn says:

    So, what story are they trying to get out in front of?  There are so many possibilities.  Is Mueller doing something today, late today?

  11. Peterr says:

    This is clearly a three-fer:

    1. distracts from Ford and the Kavanaugh’s confirmation troubles,
    2. distracts from the ignominy of Trump having to walk back declassifying the Carter Page FISA stuff because our allies threatened to stop sharing intelligence with us if it happened, and
    3. gives Trump a wonderful excuse for firing Rosenstein, even if it’s right on the eve of the midterms.

    My only question is whether (a) the leak had Trump’s blessing or (b) this was done by someone trying to bait Trump into firing Rosenstein.

    My WAG is (b). The GOP leadership is worried as hell that they are not going to get Kavanaugh confirmed, and need something to keep their base happy if that happens. Firing Rosenstein would be high on the ever-shorter list of things that would do just that. But they’ve been telling him for months “you can’t do that!” so they have to change the dynamic to get him to pull the trigger on Rosenstein.

    • Trip says:

      It may not be just a distraction. Kavanaugh’s appointment may go down the toilet. Kavanaugh was perceived by Trump as a lifeline from investigation. To hedge bets, they (WH) float these items with justification to make moves on firing Rosenstein (Mueller).

      Wait, did you just edit the last bit, or have I completely lost it, and glossed over that part?

    • Bob Conyers says:

      My wild guess is that this is an inside the White House job.

      Someone has been advocating for Rosenstein to be fired, Trump has been dithering due to warnings by others. Now that Trump is freaking about Kav, that someone is trying to take advantage of his paranoid mood and push him over the brink into firing Rosenstein.

      • harpie says:

        …and, as to “freaking about Kav”, there’s this Ric Hasen and Politico:

        OK, @Politico now reporting that the PR firm that literally invented “Swift Boating” and that reps @FedSoc and @JCNSeverino helped Ed Whelan concoct his scurrilous accusations to try to save Kavanaugh nomination

        • Avattoir says:

          Leo, emulating the grandmaster that as time determined he was just too darned young to be privileged to serve,  expertly spins plumbers downlane to arrive under a bus.

          ‘But … how … we didn’t even have time to roll out the snake …?’

        • harpie says:

          Here’s a better link:


          …a little later in the thread, there’s this:

          2:10 PM – 21 Sep 2018 And now @howappealing reporting that Justice Scalia’s son, @cjscalia, was working at this PR firm, at least as of May 2018

  12. Peterr says:

    Update: And Jim Jordan pipes up, sounding very much like he could be one of the sources for this story.

    You’d think that with everyone talking about allegations of sexual misconduct, Jordan would be wanting to keep his head down so that folks don’t start talking — again — about the allegations against him for looking the other way while sexual misconduct was going on.

    You’d be wrong, of course.

    But this is exactly the kind of thing I was thinking about in my comment above.

  13. pseudonymous in nc says:

    Maggie was ready to cheer on the Ed Whelan clown show but seems think others should do the legwork on what was going on behind the scenes.

    Now Mike and Adam are taken in by an obvious Bull Shite operation.

    Burn access journalism to the ground.

  14. Jon b says:

    couldn’t agree more that this story was another attempt by the GOP to discredit Muellers investigation. When you see Jim Jordan jumping all over this story , it smells even worse..Anything to distract from the waves crashing on their sand castle.

  15. Tracy says:

    As this story unfolds, so clear – NYT Court Stenographers were at it again.

    Good theory on Jordan, Marcy.

    I hope that yours and other reporting will get out there to totally discredit this NYT hogwash so that the deranged DJT cannot use it to do his bidding. I hope!!

    Granted, it’s already served purpose of creating major distraction, roiling the #%€¥!?#% “base.” But maaaaybe if others are reporting this responsibly – and calling the hogwash out for what it is, our democracy will limp forward another day. :-/

  16. bob atkinson says:

    A copy of McCabe’s emails/texts etc was kept by the FBI. My feeling is that the bastards in the New York FBI field office who fed the bullshit dis-information to the NYT just a week or so before the election claiming there was no proof of Russia/dotard campaign conspiracy leaked this to Schmidt and others including the odious Jim Jordan. Was Schmidt the author of that piece of journalistic malpractice as well as this piece? And how is that investigation into the New York FBI field office leaking to Giuliani coming along. Anyone heard anything?

    • Rayne says:

      Hi, bob, nice to see you again. Please note you have two different usernames — the other ‘boba’. Using the same one every time you log in helps community members get to know you. Thanks.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      Recall that this week Manafort agreed to work with Mueller, and then news hit today that Michael Cohen has been chit-chatting with the Mueller crowd.  Michael Moore’s movie opens today, at a moment when much of  the GOP Senate looks like a demanding, cantankerous pack of out-of-touch scolds from a geriatric ward.  It’s no surprise that Trump supporters would attempt to muddy the waters, given the obvious tinges of blood that are becoming visible on the surface.

      FWIW, Ari Melber (MSNBC) started his program today with a quote from Marcy, and definitely raised questions about whether the *sources* for Schmidt’s NYT story are questionable — so the story is not what NTY reported, but rather how they got pwned.

      Meanwhile, judging from the Twitter activity that I’ve seen, Whelan ought to buy tickets to somewhere in Ecuador and change his name. I hope the guy that he misidentified sues him for libel.

  17. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The number of lawyers inside the Beltway who don’t like Trump and who haven’t wondered how to invoke the 25th Amendment could probably be counted on one hand.

    The sourcing on this story stinks. It is so thin, the average editor would have wanted sign-off – or orders – from the Editor-in-Chief or Publisher to run with it.

    The apparently objective recitation here, for example, is really a hit piece: “The extreme suggestions show Mr. Rosenstein’s state of mind in the disorienting days that followed Mr. Comey’s dismissal.”

    It says to Trump that Rosenstein is unbalanced and needs to be fired – even though all of official Washington is selling the idea that extreme past behavior from lawyers should not count in assessing their current competence. Perhaps the NYT’s editors are just offering up a sacrificial lamb to appease Mr. Trump in the event Mr. Kavanaugh is not confirmed by the Senate.

    As for the NYT, it has become a charter member of the successor to Nixon’s CREEP: the Committee to Excuse – and to Re-elect – the President.

    • Bob Conyers says:

      What’s more, no lawyer with half a brain would fail to see that the 25th Amendment is never going to be used to remove Trump. It is for all intents and purposes only an option for a completely incapacitated president.

      Rosenstein knows this. Everyone who has read the text of the amendment could tell you this. It is ludicrous to think Rosenstein would seriously entertain it, any more than he would proclaim himself Chief Justice, Speaker of the House, or Queen of England.

      The entire premise of this story is a sick joke.

  18. yogarhythms says:

    Ty EW for great post. Pure dark speculation re: “NYT has an inflammatory article…” The Palace is in control of the largest weapons and JSOC needs a commander. Palace occupant could use this article as pretext to remove distractions, investigations, and give command orders. I’m praying this isn’t coming true.

  19. orionATL says:

    as for the nytimes behavior in times where matters of great moment were involved, it is important to remember that the times refused to print information its reporter james risen had uncovered about the illlegal domestic nsa spying program named stellar wind until after the bush-kerry election was over. the decision to delay was made at the request of president bush after the info had been presented to the whitehouse by the times. i believe corporate republican bill keller was managing editor then.

  20. Tracy says:

    Sally Yates on Maddow a few months ago said: we need legislation to protect Mueller, yes; but just as much so Rod Rosenstein. She said, if you really want to hamstring the probe, that’s the best way to do it.

    And here we are. Thank you again, NYT, you are officially endangering our democracy w/ your irresponsible, self-interested “reporting.”

    It seems like the Cohen news, Kavanaugh situation, w Manafort in the background, have inspired this bit of Crazy.

  21. Tommy D Cosmology says:

    EW, this is my first comment here, but I couldn’t hold back any longer. (1) Excellent stuff. You are now #2 after I peek at CNN to see if anything has blown up. (2) How many Republicans do you think participated in the conspiracy (a) with knowledge of Russian interference before the election and (b) afterward? I’m not looking for a complete count here, Ms. Wheeler. I suspect 2 (a) reaches into the RNC (Reince Priebus was in the know) and 2 (b) is the whole fucking lot of them.


  22. Taxidermist says:

    I’ve been reading EW for a while and this is my first comment- I am way out of my league here so I’ve resisted the urge to ask stupid questions.
    I want to first thank EW for incredible reporting.
    I’ve started reading old posts about the GWB era that I was too young to grasp at the time. I’m very appreciative of the time and effort put into this site.
    I guess my question is also regarding the republicans in Congress that seem to lie so blatantly in the face of what seems like reality. Does anyone have an idea of involvement on their part?

  23. pseudonymous in nc says:

    Schmidt on Ari Melber and NPR was very weird about his sourcing:

    KELLY: Well, let me come at it this way. What gives you confidence in their accounts and their motives if none of them actually witnessed the conversations that you’re reporting Rosenstein had?

    SCHMIDT: Well, I don’t think we say in the story that there’s no firsthand folks. I don’t think we explain that. But I understand your question. I think that…

    So they don’t say that there’s no “firsthand folks”, but all of the attribution in the piece is to second- and third-hand folks. And “this period of time” is also re-focusing on late spring 2017 before the real investigation started in earnest. So what’s going on here?

    Sometimes Schmidt’s pieces shake out other information and become a kind of lead-in to other pieces. But that perpetuates a bad habit of publishing things that seem designed more to provoke a response from the subjects than to actually report.

  24. Angel Martin says:

    Lisa Page is “sourced” in at least two places saying the “wear a wire” comment was serious.



    So she is trying to reinforce the narrative against Rosenstein.

    She could have been the source for almost all of the NYT story. She likely would have seen the McCabe memos.

    Amazingly irresponsible “journalism” by the NYT, in any case.

Comments are closed.