Rod Rosenstein expected to leave DOJ next month

February 19, 2019

Deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein is expected to leave the Justice Department in the middle of March, numerous media outlets reported Monday.

Rosenstein has long been a thorn in President Donald Trump’s side for his handling of Robert Mueller’s probe, and recently re-surfaced allegations that Rosenstein discussed removing Trump from office had his boss blasting the deputy AG’s “treasonous” plot. But Rosenstein’s departure was expected after Trump’s nominee for attorney general, William Barr, was confirmed last week.

Rosenstein to leave in March

Several news outlets reported Monday that Rosenstein would leave in the middle of March, according to an anonymous Justice Department official. It was reported last month that Rosenstein wanted to leave as soon as Barr was confirmed and that he had always meant to stay on the job for only two years, just long enough to help the new AG transition into his role.

A Trump administration official reported that Barr picked Jeffrey Rosen, the current deputy secretary of the Transportation Department, to take over Rosenstein’s role, and an official announcement could come as soon as this week.

While Rosenstein is expected to step down voluntarily, the ordinary circumstances of his departure make for a surprisingly hum-drum conclusion to his rocky tenure as deputy AG under a president famous for firing unsatisfactory subordinates.

Rosenstein has long been a target of Trump’s ire over his decision to appoint special counsel Robert Mueller to investigate Russian election interference and alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Rosenstein made the appointment after Trump fired former FBI director James Comey in May of 2017, which followed on the heels of former attorney general Jeff Sessions’ recusal from the Russia probe over his involvement in the Trump campaign.

Sessions’ recusal put Rosenstein in charge of the Russia probe, and he continued to supervise it even after Sessions was fired in November and replaced by acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker, but now the reins have been passed on to Barr.

Trump has fumed against Rosenstein from time to time, occasionally lumping him in with other top FBI and DOJ officials he considers enemies, including James Comey and Andrew McCabe. In November, Trump retweeted a meme which depicted Rosenstein in a jail cell and said at the time that Rosenstein should never have appointed Mueller.

“Treasonous” plot?

Rosenstein will leave amid fresh DOJ controversy following claims by McCabe that he discussed ousting Trump from office in the days after Comey’s firing. The Justice Department told CNN that Rosenstein’s departure had nothing to do with McCabe’s comments.

Like Comey, McCabe has followed up his ouster from the DOJ, which came after an internal watchdog found he inappropriately leaked to the media and lied under oath about it, with a press tour to promote a new memoir about his time at the Justice Department, “The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump.” McCabe sat down for an interview with CBS that aired Sunday in which he said that Rosenstein discussed removing president Trump from office by using the 25th Amendment and wiretapping Trump.

Rosenstein and the Justice Department have contested McCabe’s claims, with the Justice Department saying that Rosenstein “never authorized any recording that Mr. McCabe references” and that he “was not in a position to consider invoking the 25th Amendment,” but McCabe told CBS that Rosenstein was “serious” about wire-tapping Trump.

“Now, he was not joking,” McCabe said. “He was absolutely serious. And in fact, he brought it up in the next meeting we had.”

McCabe said that former FBI lawyer James Baker almost “had a heart attack” when he heard of Rosenstein’s discussions. In private testimony to Congress, Fox reported, Baker said that he had been briefed on the discussions by McCabe and FBI lawyer Lisa Page and that he took them “seriously.” Baker also said that at least two Cabinet officials showed interest in the plan and that the wiretap talks went on for a couple days before they were abandoned for being “too risky.”

DOJ officials previously told NBC that Rosenstein was only joking about the wiretap when the allegations first surfaced in the fall with a New York Times report. He denied the allegations at the time and managed to hold on to his job after appearing to work things out with his boss.

McCabe’s remarks prompted Trump to blast McCabe and Rosenstein for an “illegal and treasonous” plot on Monday, while Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) promised to subpoena the two.


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Matthew Boose

Matthew Boose is a staff writer for Conservative Institute. He has a Bachelor's degree from Stony Brook University and has contributed to The Daily Caller and The Stony Brook Press.