Asked precisely what Rosenstein has done wrong, she said only that he was slow to provide some requested documents to Congress.
The swirling accusations of bad faith and political bias inside the FBI and Justice Department have angered and bewildered some current and former FBI agents and prosecutors. The say the harsh rhetoric from Trump and his allies is sapping the morale of employees and public respect for the bureau.
"We have really fallen way far down the rabbit hole, that's for sure," said Frank Montoya Jr., a former FBI agent who headed counterintelligence operations at the bureau.
"Internally, there's a lot of people who are freaking upset, and disappointed," he said. "They think that they are being unrighteously dragged through the political slime field, and we are."
He added, "The president keeps sucker-punching us."
Former Attorney General Eric Holder, who served from 2009 to 2015 under Obama, said Trump's complaints and attacks break the traditional wall between the Justice Department and the White House. He said the drumbeat of criticism won't rattle Mueller, but it might make a difference when a jury considers testimony from an FBI agent in an ordinary criminal trial.
The criticism will "raise doubts in the minds of people as they listen to that FBI agent and what she says in a way they never did before," he told reporters. "The long-term negative collateral consequences are substantial, they're real, and I hope the president would pull back."
FBI Director Christopher Wray, whom Trump chose to replace Comey, has avoided directly confronting Trump. But after the House memo was released, he put out an internal video to FBI employees telling them to stand tough amid the political bickering.
"Talk is cheap," he said. "The work you do is what will endure."
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