01:03 - Source: CNN
WH: Comey tossed 'stick of dynamite' into DOJ

Story highlights

Rosenstein said his take on Comey was shared by former Justice officials

One former official called the proffered justification for the firing a "sham"

CNN  — 

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein didn’t pull any punches in his two-and-a-half-page memo detailing how now-former FBI Director James Comey flouted Justice Department protocols in his handling of Hillary Clinton’s private email server investigation, calling it a “textbook example of what federal prosecutors and agents are taught not to do.”

Rosenstein cited a litany of public statements from several former high-level Justice Department officials in support of his assessment about Comey’s “serious mistakes” Tuesday, but their reactions since President Donald Trump fired Comey Tuesday evening have been noticeably subdued or downright nonexistent.

Former Deputy Attorney General Donald Ayer, who served under President George H.W. Bush, suggested that Rosenstein’s proffered justification for the firing was pretext.

“I view the firing based it seems entirely on Comey’s mishandling of the Clinton investigation by making various inappropriate public statements as a sham,” Ayer said in a statement. “At the time, Mr. Trump was supportive of the most incorrect things that Comey did – editorializing about the facts of the then ended investigation and later announcing that the investigation had been reopened. The Deputy should realize that his correct assessment of those mistakes is now being used to justify firing for a very different reason.”

Rosenstein accused Comey of attempting to “usurp the attorney general’s authority” by publicly announcing why he felt the case should be closed without prosecution.

“It is not the function of the Director to make such an announcement,” Rosenstein said in Tuesday’s memo. “(T)he FBI Director is never empowered to supplant federal prosecutors and assume command of the Justice Department.”

Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said on CNN’s “New Day” Wednesday that he has a “great deal of faith” in Rosenstein, but didn’t exactly offer a full-fledged reaffirmation of his previous claim that Comey made an “error in judgment.”

“I know Rod Rosenstein, he was one of my US attorneys. I have a great deal of faith in him,” Gonzales said, “I have no issues with him coming out and speaking out to the press and providing a full explanation of the reasoning. But again, the timing is so strange.”

CNN contacted all of the other former officials cited in Rosenstein’s letter, including Judge Laurence Silberman, former Deputy Attorneys General Jamie Gorelick and Larry Thompson, and former Attorneys General Michael Mukasey and Eric Holder – all of whom declined to comment.

CNN’s Ariane de Vogue contributed to this report.