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Rod Rosenstein jokes about tense relationship with Trump in Kansas City speech
Gage Skidmore / CCL
Speaking to a crowd of prosecutors and law enforcement in Kansas City Wednesday, Rod Rosenstein drew laughs with a quip about tensions with his boss, the Kansas City Star reported.
The deputy attorney general jokingly asked the audience at a Justice Department conference to remind President Donald Trump that his “favorite deputy AG was here,” a not-so-subtle dig at the president’s public criticism against Rosenstein. Trump is scheduled to speak at the three-day Project Safe Neighborhoods National Conference on Friday.
The wisecrack came one week after Trump shared an image depicting Rosenstein and others in jail on Twitter.
Rosenstein tries humor to defuse Trump tensions
Rosenstein was speaking in front of hundreds of law enforcement officials about strategies for stopping violent crime when he made the allusion to Trump’s scheduled appearance later in the week.
“I regret that I won’t be here,” Rosenstein said. “In fact there’s no place I’d rather be than in the audience with all of you. I’m headed straight back to Washington. But you let the President know that his favorite deputy attorney general was here,” he said, to laughter and applause.
The deputy AG was in a lighthearted mood that belied his often fractious relationship with the president. Rosenstein has long been a target of Trump’s anger after he appointed Robert Mueller to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election as well as alleged collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. Trump has bristled against Rosenstein’s “Witch Hunt” for months.
The appointment came after former Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the probe. Sessions lasted nearly two years in his job before getting fired last month. He has been temporarily replaced by acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker, who will speak at the conference Thursday.
The New York Times reported in September that Rosenstein planned to secretly tape Trump and even thought about seeking his removal through the 25th Amendment. Rosenstein denied the report, which raised speculation that his ouster was imminent. Trump later said in October that he had no plans to fire him.
Trump endorses Rosenstein’s imprisonment
But that wasn’t the end of Rosenstein’s troubles. Trump retweeted an image last week that depicted Rosenstein in jail alongside other targets of the president’s wrath, including Hillary Clinton, James Comey, and Robert Mueller. Speaking with the New York Post, Trump defended the tweet, saying, “He [Rosenstein] should never have picked a Special Counsel.”
Asked whether he plans to fire Rosenstein, Trump demurred, but said he was glad that he fired Comey. Rosenstein authored a memo recommending Comey’s ouster before Trump canned the former FBI director in 2017.
Meanwhile, Rosenstein has lately been taking the heat from the president in stride.
“Just because people are quick to criticize you does not mean that you are doing the wrong thing. Take it from me,” he joked to a group of technology companies last Thursday.
Rosenstein also had words of praise at the conference for Trump, who he called a champion of law enforcement.
“There is no stronger supporter of law enforcement in the United States,” Rosenstein said.
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