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If Rosenstein Is Fired, His Departure Would Impact Mueller Probe


The very latest news development is rarely the most important development and sometimes not even a development. Yesterday, shortly before 11 o'clock in the morning Eastern Time, the political world was convulsed with news that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had been fired or maybe that he had quit. And it turned out he had been neither - at least not for now. But he remains at the center of debate, so we have reached former assistant FBI Director Greg Brower, who was also at one time the U.S. attorney for Nevada. Mr. Brower, welcome to the program.

GREG BROWER: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: President Trump does face this question of whether to get rid of Rod Rosenstein, particularly after Rosenstein's reported remarks involving invoking the 25th Amendment of the Constitution to remove the president at some point in 2017. This is feared, I guess, because Rosenstein oversees the Russia investigation. Would removing the deputy attorney general make it easier to interfere with that investigation?

BROWER: Potentially, and that's why I think there's - there has been so much concern to the - with the idea - the possibility that the president could fire Rod. And at this point, if it happened, I guess no one would really be shocked, given the lead-up to this. But it nevertheless would send a shockwave throughout DOJ, including the FBI, and for exactly the reason that you mentioned, because it would be seen, I think, as an attack by the president on the Department of Justice and would further be seen as the next effort in an ongoing effort to undermine the Mueller investigation.

INSKEEP: I guess we should be clear - you were with the FBI until earlier this year, right? And so you worked with Rosenstein. You just spoke with him on - you just referred to him on a first-name basis.

BROWER: Yeah. I guess I did. I have known Rod Rosenstein for quite a while. We met when we were both at DOJ back during the Bush administration. We served as U.S. attorneys together. I worked closely with him while he was the deputy attorney general and I was at the FBI. So I do know Rod very well.

INSKEEP: What did you think about when you read The New York Times' report late last week that he had made this remark about invoking the 25th Amendment, made another remark about wearing a wire? And, to be frank, this - these statements were not entirely denied. A Justice Department official seemed to acknowledge they happened but just said they were sarcastic.

BROWER: Yeah. I wasn't in those meetings, and so I don't have firsthand knowledge. So I'm not sure exactly what to make of it. As you mentioned, Rod has denied saying those things in any serious way. I will, however, tell you that there has been concern within the Department of Justice for obvious reasons with the president and his attacks on DOJ and the FBI for quite some time. So to the extent that there are conversations happening expressing concern about those attacks and concern about the president's efforts to undermine the special counsel's investigation, that wouldn't surprise me at all. But with respect to these specific allegations, of course, Rod Rosenstein has denied that it happened that way. And it's awfully ironic that the president appears to be willing to believe The New York Times on this story when he, you know, makes a regular habit of saying The New York Times is not reliable with respect to virtually anything else it reports.

INSKEEP: But you're making an interesting point here. You're saying regardless of the exact wording, regardless of exactly what was said or whether it was sarcastic, you believe it is perfectly legitimate for someone trying to be independent in the Department of Justice to question what the president is doing and whether the president's actions make sense even though, strictly speaking, you're working for the president.

BROWER: Yeah. I think that sort of the elephant in the room here, so to speak, is the fact that it's inevitable that if you serve in the Department of Justice or the FBI, certainly at the senior levels, it's inevitable that you would have concern with respect to the almost, you know, regular attacks on the integrity of the department and the FBI from the president over the last several months. It's simply an unprecedented and untenable reality that is, you know, frankly, harmful to the department and its work and to the rule of law.

INSKEEP: Because you're not actually the president's lawyer. You're the public's lawyer. Is that right?

BROWER: Well, that's absolutely true. That's fundamentally the reality, not to mention that these attacks appear to be politically motivated and moreover just to reveal a fundamental misunderstanding of how DOJ and the FBI work.

INSKEEP: Well, Mr. Brower, thanks very much for your time. I really appreciate it.

BROWER: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Greg Brower is a former FBI assistant director who worked in the Office of Congressional Affairs there. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.