'He was a role model': The deputy attorney general just released his first official comments about Comey's firing

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, in his first public remarks since former FBI Director James Comey's firing, told members of the House of Representatives on Friday that Comey "was a role model."

Rosenstein briefed lawmakers on the events leading up to Comey's dismissal last Tuesday, as well as his decision on Wednesday to appoint a special counsel to lead the FBI's probe into Russia's election interference and whether Trump's campaign team was complicit.

"Before I discuss the events of the past two weeks, I want to provide some background about my previous relationship with former Director Comey," Rosenstein said, according to a copy of his prepared remarks released to reporters after the briefing concluded.

RELATED: Reaction to Trump's firing of James Comey

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Reaction to Trump's firing of James Comey
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Reaction to Trump's firing of James Comey
But does anyone seriously believe @realDonaldTrump fired the top person investigating his ties to Russia because he was unfair to Hillary?
Trump firing Comey shows how frightened the Admin is over Russia investigation
Gov. John Kasich statement on James Comey https://t.co/Wrwj6sGqnz
Removal of Director Comey only confirms need for select cmte to investigate #Russia's interference in 2016 election https://t.co/LfKlwSw6iQ
EVERYONE who cares about independence & rule of law in America should be "troubled by the timing and reasoning" of… https://t.co/NZY4qh3uiz
This is Nixonian. Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein must immediately appoint a special prosecutor to continue the Trump/Russia investigation.
Firing of Comey tainted by extraordinary conflict of interest. Independent prosecutor must be appointed to restore… https://t.co/lXBIJtTf18
First Pres Trump fired Sally Yates, then Preet Bharara. Now #Comey. Doesn't seem like an accident. We must have a special prosecutor.
If we don't get a special prosecutor, every American will rightfully suspect that the decision to fire #Comey was part of a cover-up.
We are in a full-fledged constitutional crisis.
Comey's fired, which means Trump must be one of the few people in DC that the FBI doesn't have something on.
My statement on James Comey https://t.co/NWBR8FGTCf
Elijah Cummings is calling for "immediate emergency hearings". https://t.co/iMsNmdPmHi
LEAHY: "This is nothing less than Nixonian." https://t.co/n4R4fWSgib
Sen. John McCain on Comey firing: "I regret that that took place. The president does have that authority, so I resp… https://t.co/pSEu3XXsj5
Statement on FBI Director Comey ➡ https://t.co/vB822Nw5OR
This should not be sugar coated. Firing Comey is up there in terms of the scariest things Trump has done.
I am troubled by the timing and reasoning of Director Comey’s termination.
My staff and I are reviewing legislation to establish an independent commission on Russia. The second paragraph of… https://t.co/qcm1PiFkNG
Ds were against Comey before they were for him.
U.S. Senator Susan Collins’ Statement on Director Comey #mepolitics https://t.co/LHCcbPJMsb https://t.co/xNUeGvENlv
Firing Comey has the foul stench of an attempt to stop an ongoing investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.
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He continued: "I have known Jim Comey since approximately 2002. In 2005, when Mr. Comey was Deputy Attorney General, he participated in selecting me to serve as a US attorney. As a federal prosecutor, he was a role model. His speeches about leadership and public service inspired me."

Rosenstein went on to say, however, that he thought Comey's decision to hold a press conference "concerning the federal grand jury investigation of Secretary Clinton's emails" last July "was profoundly wrong." That echoed what he wrote in a memo last week — the day Comey was fired — outlining what he saw as Comey's mishandling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server.

SEE ALSO: 'No. No. Next question': Trump flatly denies he ever asked Comey to end probe into Flynn

"Director Comey attended the Maryland US Attorney's office training seminar on October 27, 2016, and gave a detailed explanation of his reasons for making public statements about the conclusion of the Secretary Clinton email investigation," Rosenstein said. "I strongly disagreed with his analysis, but I believe that he made his decisions in good faith."

On October 28, Comey sent a letter to Congress announcing that he was going to revisit the Clinton email investigation.

"He subsequently has said that he believed he was obligated to send the letter," Rosenstein said on Friday. "I completely disagree. He again usurped the authority of the Department of Justice ... and guaranteed that some people would accuse the FBI of interfering in the election."

Comey's decision to send that letter was praised by then-candidate Donald Trump, whose aides initially used Rosenstein's memo accusing Comey of flouting DOJ rules as justification for his dismissal. Trump told NBC two days after firing Comey, however, that he intended to do it "regardless" of Rosenstein's recommendation.

RELATED: Key players in Trump-Russia connection allegations

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Key Trump officials, advisers of note in the Russia probe
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Key Trump officials, advisers of note in the Russia probe

Tom Barrack

The close friend to Donald Trump and CEO of private equity firm Colony Capital recommended that Trump bring in Paul Manafort for his presidential campaign.

R. James Woolsey

Woolsey, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), has cooperated with Mueller's investigation and worked with Michael Flynn and was present at a meeting where they discussed removing the controversial Turkish Muslim cleric Fetullah Gulen from US soil. 

(Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The former senior Trump campaign official and White House adviser was present and crucial during the firings of Michael Flynn and James Comey.

The former head of the Trump transition team following the 2016 election has said previously that he believes he was fired due to his opposing the hiring of Michael Flynn as national security adviser.

Jeff Sessions

Former U.S. senator Jeff Sessions from Alabama joined Trump's campaign as a foreign policy adviser in February 2016. Sessions was nominated to be U.S. attorney general by President Trump and was then confirmed by the Senate. Reports then emerged that Sessions had spoken twice with Sergey Kislyak while he was senator -- a fact that he left out of his Senate hearing testimony. Instead, he said in writing that he had not communicated with any Russian officials during the campaign season. Sessions defended himself saying he had spoken with Kislyak specifically in a senate capacity.

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort signed on as Donald Trump's campaign manager in March 2016. A longtime Republican strategist and beltway operative, Manafort had previously served as an adviser to former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich -- a pro-Russia leader who was violently ousted in 2014. Manafort resigned from his campaign position in August 2016 amid questions over his lobbying history in Ukraine for an administration supportive of Russia. The former campaign manager reportedly remained in Trump's circle during the post-election transition period.

Michael Flynn

Gen. Michael Flynn was named President Trump's national security adviser in November of 2016. Flynn reportedly met and spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December, at one point discussing sanctions. Flynn originally told Vice President Pence he did not discuss sanctions -- a point the Department of Justice said made the national security adviser subject to blackmail. Flynn resigned from his position in February.

Donald Trump

2016 election winner Donald Trump is at the center of special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russia's handlings.

Sam Clovis

Clovis, a former member of the Trump campaign, arrives on at the U.S. Capitol December 12, 2017 to appear before a closed meeting of the House Intelligence Committee. Clovis worked with George Papadopoulos, a former Donald Trump campaign foreign policy advisor who struck a plea deal on charges of lying to the FBI.

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Roger Stone

Stone is a longtime Republican political consultant who served as a campaign adviser to Trump who continued to talk with the then-GOP candidate after stepping away from his adviser role. Stone claimed last year that he had knowledge of the planned WikiLeaks release of emails pertaining to Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. Stone recently admitted to speaking via direct message with "Guccifer 2.0" -- an online entity U.S. officials believe is tied to Russia. Stone says the correspondence was “completely innocuous.”

Carter Page

Page worked for Merrill Lynch as an investment banker out of their Moscow office for three years before joining Trump's campaign as a foreign policy adviser. During his time with Merrill Lynch, Page advised transactions for two major Russian entities. Page has called Washington "hypocritical" for focusing on corruption and democratization in addressing U.S. relations with Russia. While Page is someone Trump camp has seemingly tried to distance itself from, Page recently said he has made frequent visits to Trump Tower.

J.D. Gordon

Before Gordon joined the Trump campaign as a national security adviser in March 2016, he served as a Pentagon spokesman from 2005 through 2009. Like others involved in Trump-Russia allegations, Gordon met with ambassador Kislyak in July at the Republican National Convention, but has since denied any wrongdoing in their conversation. He advocated for and worked to revise the RNC language on and position toward Ukraine relations, so it was more friendly toward Russia's dealings in the country.

Former Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo (L)

Caputo waves goodbye to reporters after he testified before the House Intelligence Committee during a closed-door session at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center July 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. Caputo resigned from being a Trump campaign communications advisor after appearing to celebrate the firing of former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Denying any contact with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign, Caputo did live in Moscow during the 1990s, served as an adviser to former Russian President Boris Yeltsin and did pro-Putin public relations work for the Russian conglomerate Gazprom Media.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Stephen Miller, White House Senior Advisor for Policy

Jason Miller
Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer
Eric Trump
Donald Trump Jr.
Ivanka Trump
White House Senior adviser Jared Kushner
Executive assistant to Donald Trump Rhona Graff
White House Communications Director Hope Hicks
Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski
US Vice President Mike Pence
Katrina Pierson
K.T. McFarland
Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci
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Some lawmakers were apparently frustrated that Rosenstein would not disclose more details about what led up to Trump's decision to fire Comey. He was "very guarded" about Comey's dismissal, one Republican representative, who wished to remain anonymous, told CNN. A Democratic member of the House described Rosenstein as "frustratingly cautious."

Rosenstein's opening statement did not mention a New York Times report, published on Tuesday, that Comey had written memos describing what he felt were inappropriate efforts by Trump to influence the FBI's Russia probe. It is unclear if Rosenstein addressed the report in the closed portion of the briefing.

But Rosenstein did confirm to lawmakers that he learned of Trump's decision to fire Comey one day before writing the memo outlining his alleged misconduct, which he emphasized was "not a legal brief" and "not a finding of official misconduct."

SEE ALSO: Trump: Joe Lieberman is top pick for FBI director

"On May 8, I learned that President Trump intended to remove Director Comey and sought my advice and input. Notwithstanding my personal affection for Director Comey, I thought it was appropriate to seek a new leader."

Trump acknowledged in his interview with NBC that "the Russia thing" was on his mind when he decided to fire Comey, leading to questions about whether he fired Comey to impede the investigation into his campaign's ties to Russia. Reports surfaced soon after Comey was fired that he had asked the DOJ for additional resources to conduct the probe, but Rosenstein pushed back against those claims on Friday.

"I am not aware of any such request," he told members of Congress. "Moreover, I consulted my staff and acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, and none of them recalls such a request."

The rest of the hearing, as it was when Rosenstein briefed the Senate on Thursday, was closed. But some Democratic lawmakers have emerged troubled from the briefings, in which Rosenstein explained his decision to appoint a special counsel to lead the FBI's Russia investigation.

"Rosenstein testimony to Senate was profoundly disturbing," Sen. Jeff Merkley tweeted Thursday.

"Just came out of the House briefing by the Deputy AG," Rep. Seth Moulton tweeted on Friday. "It renewed my confidence that we should have no confidence in this Administration."

"This is about the fight for the soul of our democracy," Rep. Elijah Cummings told reporters after emerging from the closed-door briefing. "We cannot afford to lose this one."

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'He was a role model': The deputy attorney general just released his first official comments about Comey's firing
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