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Deputy AG Admits He Knew Trump Made Up His Mind To Fire Comey BEFORE The Memo (VIDEOS/TWEETS)

For three days, Donald Trump tried to convince Americans that he fired FBI Director James Comey for mishandling the Hillary Clinton email investigation, primarily after reading a memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that harshly criticized Comey’s handling of that probe. But that line didn’t pass the smell test, in part because Trump himself, as well as at least one key campaign official, loudly applauded Comey’s announcement that he’d found emails that were potentially relevant to the investigation.

Eventually, after The Washington Post revealed that he’d already made up his mind to fire Comey before Rosenstein wrote that memo, Trump reversed course and claimed that memo or no memo, he was going to dump Comey. That raised an obvious question–did Rosenstein know this as well? On Thursday afternoon, Rosenstein told a closed-door meeting of the entire Senate that he did indeed know that Comey was a goner even before he drafted the memo.

Less than 24 hours after naming former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel for the investigation into Russia’s hacking of the presidential election, Rosenstein briefed the Senate on the matter in the Senate’s “sensitive compartmented information facility,” an area normally reserved for meetings about classified or sensitive matters. It’s not clear why the meeting was held behind closed doors as of yet.

However, after the meeting ended, Minority Whip Dick Durbin said that Rosenstein told the Senate that he had known on May 8 that Comey was about to be fired–more than 24 hours before the decision was announced. According to Durbin, Rosenstein then “wrote his memo for his rationale” for the firing. However, the Illinois Democrat told The Post, Rosenstein said that he felt no pressure from Trump to write the memo.

According to The New York Times, Durbin believes there were still “a lot of missing pieces.” For instance, it’s unclear exactly what Trump said on May 8, and it’s still not known what role Attorney General Jeff Sessions played. However, Durbin believed that Rosenstein had only two options–“appoint someone of the stature of Director Mueller” to take over the investigation, “or resign.”

Claire McCaskill of Missouri corroborated Durbin’s account. Watch here, via CNN.

McCaskill, who is a former prosecutor, said that she was withholding judgment about Rosenstein’s actions because “we don’t have all the facts.” She added that Rosenstein was mum about details in order to give Mueller a chance to conduct his own investigation.

Those facts may make a big difference in how this plays out. Remember, this is the first known instance of an FBI director being fired while people close to the president are the foci of an FBI investigation. If Trump fired Comey to derail that investigation, and intended to use Rosenstein’s memo as a cover, Comey’s firing would be the definition of obstruction of justice. In other words, any new facts that come out could make a big difference in determining whether this is merely Third World-style hackery or an impeachable offense.

Later, Chris Murphy of Connecticut discussed Rosenstein’s briefing on MSNBC’s “MTP Daily.” Watch here.

Murphy said that it was “clear as day” that Rosenstein knew Comey was already gone–a point Rosenstein made in his opening statement. Therefore, Murphy said, Trump’s claim in the termination letter he wrote to Comey that he relied on the memo “is not true.” He noted that Rosenstein was very guarded in many of his comments, such as the release of his memo–leading him to believe that Mueller’s investigation is going to be very exhaustive. Indeed, he was “shocked” at how little Rosenstein was able to disclose–leading him to suspect that there was “a potential obstruction of justice case” related to the firing.

Murphy also added that Rosenstein assured them Mueller will have more or less a free hand, with no political interference–even though Mueller is nominally answerable to him. He apparently said that in response to this rant from Trump.

No, Donald. You brought this on yourself. And if it turns out you used that memo as a cover for obstruction of justice, this may be the start of your downfall.

(featured image courtesy Andrew Harrer)

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Written by Darrell Lucus

Darrell is a 30-something graduate of the University of North Carolina who considers himself a journalist of the old school. An attempt to turn him into a member of the religious right in college only succeeded in turning him into the religious right's worst nightmare--a charismatic Christian who is an unapologetic liberal. His desire to stand up for those who have been scared into silence only increased when he survived an abusive three-year marriage. You may know him on Daily Kos as Christian Dem in NC. Follow him on Twitter @DarrellLucus or connect with him on Facebook. Click here to buy Darrell a Mello Yello.