Rod Rosenstein leaving DOJ: What we know (so far)
Breaking this morning:
Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who had been overseeing the Russia investigation, is expected to leave the Justice Department after President Trump’s choice to run the department is confirmed, according to two administration officials.
Trump’s Attorney General nominee, William Barr, has yet to be confirmed — in fact, hearings have not been scheduled. There is good reason to believe that Barr is not impartial on the matter of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign and transition:
- U.S. President Donald Trump’s choice for attorney general, William Barr, said in a memo earlier this year that part of Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is “fatally misconceived,” The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.
- Barr wrote in the June memo that he was concerned about Mueller looking into whether Trump obstructed justice in several incidents involving former FBI Director James Comey, according to the Journal.
- Barr argued that Trump was acting well within his executive-branch authority, based on the facts as he understands them, the Journal reported.
The NY Times, in a counterintuitive aside, also reports
Once it was clear that Mr. Sessions’s time at the department was running out, Mr. Rosenstein quietly supported replacing him with Mr. Barr, according to a person who has discussed the issue with Mr. Rosenstein. He and Mr. Barr previously worked together at the Justice Department during the George H.W. Bush administration.
[A DOJ] official, who asked not to be named since no announcement has been made, said there is no specific plan for Rosenstein’s departure and that he plans to leave sometime after Barr’s confirmation. … Rosenstein will stay on to ensure smooth transition with Barr, the official said, adding that he has seen his job as deputy as a two-year stint and is not being forced out.
WaPo provides their analysis:
In some ways, Rosenstein’s departure is unsurprising. Barr has told people he would like to select his own deputy attorney general — which is normal for the Justice Department’s top leaders. The deputy attorney general is like a chief operating officer, managing much of the department’s day-to-day and mediating disputes between its many sprawling parts. Attorneys general generally prefer a deputy with whom they can work well, and Barr has said publicly when he served as attorney general the last time — during the George H.W. Bush administration — he wanted to make the selection for the job.
Two contrasting views of the development on Twitter:
Rosenstein’s announced departure underscores the need for the Senate to consider the Barr nomination carefully & that may have contributed to the timing of his announcement.
— Joyce Alene (@JoyceWhiteVance) January 9, 2019
It also underscores that Rosenstein has faith that: (a) the Mueller probe is far enough along NOT to be dismantled (b) Barr will make a good AG and (c) he is likely a witness in obstruction regarding the Comey firing and its aftermath.
— Teresa Ganim (@henleyurban) January 9, 2019
That last point is crucial. DEVELOPING…