Rodricks: Rod Rosenstein has been smeared left and right

Nobody asked me, but Rod Rosenstein, who served honorably and effectively as the U.S. attorney for Maryland for 12 years, must be longing for the simpler days when he supervised the prosecution of vicious gang members, drug dealers, bank robbers, pornographers and Medicare cheats.

The assault by congressional Republicans on federal authorities investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election widened this week to include Rosenstein, who left his job in Baltimore to become deputy attorney general in April. What Rosenstein reportedly did wrong in the Russian investigation is, like a lot of what comes out of the right-wing conspiracy chamber, an accusation based on a stretch and twist of facts: He supposedly approved the continued surveillance of a Trump foreign policy adviser with ties to Russia, based on politically tainted evidence. That’s the briefest way I can describe Rosenstein’s suspected infraction, based on a New York Times report.

Nobody asked me, but, having observed the conservative, strait-laced Rosenstein as U.S. attorney here, it’s hard to imagine him knowingly misleading a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge, or any judge, or anyone. So pardon me while I lean toward Rosenstein.

Plus, Republicans of the extreme right have no credibility here because they do not take the Russian allegations seriously, and they defend Donald J. Trump, no matter what he says or does. Therefore, we should not be surprised that their campaign to smear and undermine a legitimate investigation has extended to Rosenstein, a fellow Republican who was confirmed as deputy AG by a 94-6 vote of the Senate.

Since arriving at the Justice Department, Rosenstein has gone from being called a “useful patsy” by the left — for his role in providing, wittingly or not, grounds for Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey — to being a man of principle — for naming Robert Mueller special counsel for the Russian investigation — to what I saw Tuesday in a looney right-wing screed: “Agent of the deep state coup.” The writer asserted that Rosenstein and Mueller have conspired to protect Hillary Clinton from prosecution and bring down Trump.

Make no mistake: The campaign to discredit the FBI, and now apparently Rosenstein, is another in a long series of efforts to support Trump and give traction to his claims of a “witch hunt.” (House Speaker Paul Ryan called Tuesday for a “cleanse” of the FBI, and he used the word “disinfectant” in remarks to the press.) This kind of talk, fueled by starkly partisan politics, comes at the high cost of further poisoning public opinion of the men and women trained and entrusted to investigate crimes at the highest levels. That should rattle all of us who believe the rule of law paramount.

Nobody asked me, but Baltimore’s acting police commissioner might want to wait for the final results from the Gun Trace Task Force trial before putting plainclothes officers back on the streets to target guns and drugs. In the midst of the creepy testimony oozing from federal court, with witnesses describing a team of plainclothes cops who essentially acted as pirates throughout the city, Darryl De Sousa is considering a restart?

Don’t get me wrong. The city probably needs a special unit again — research from the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research supports it — and the police brass might get it right next time. But, given the sickening revelations in the current trial of accused cops, Baltimoreans are probably going to be skeptical, and certainly conflicted. We’re desperate to see an end to the surge of gun violence across the city, but we don’t want to see this nightmare repeated — corrupt cops let loose, planting evidence, rewarded for illegal arrests, selling guns and drugs back to the street. We are in a tough spot, aren’t we?

Nobody asked me, but no matter what the mayor and archbishop — and most Baltimoreans — want, the narrative has not changed. There have been 25 homicides in the city in the last 30 days.

Nobody asked me, but the Academy Award for best motion picture of 2017 should go to “Dunkirk.” It was the best conceptualized and realized film of the year. As critic Linda DeLibero recently noted on the “Roughly Speaking” podcast, “Dunkirk” had no star. The film was the star.

I checked and, turns out, it’s a popular myth that you have up to one year to send a wedding gift to a couple. “It really should be sent soon after you receive your invitation,” says the Emily Post Institute, “or, on the outside, within three months of the wedding.” OK. Nobody asked me, but, if it’s wrong to take a whole year to send a wedding gift, it’s far worse to never get a thank-you note for one.

Nobody asked me, but there might not be a city street more in need of repaving than Madison, from the far east side of the city to at least Broadway. If you’ve seen worse, let me know.

drodricks@baltsun.com

twitter.com/DanRodricks

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