He’s only held the office for a short time, but his seat is already very hot. Rod Rosenstein, the new deputy attorney general, is under fire because of the controversy around President Trump’s decision to fire FBI director James Comey. Rosenstein is a 27-year Justice Department veteran who came into his new position with broad, bi-partisan support, but was little known outside of government circles. The White House decided to put emphasis on his memo criticizing Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server when they made the decision to fire the director. This report thrust Rosenstein into the spotlight.
At some point soon Rosenstein is supposed to go back to the Hill and provide more testimony although a date has not be made known yet.
Ironically, the report that the deputy attorney general made about Comey is supported by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle as well as both legal scholars and law enforcement officers. It was the White House’s changing storyline that has created such heat for Rosenstein, causing him to threaten to resign (he denies this claim).
Rod Rosenstein was appointed by former President George W. Bush and was one of only three U.S. attorneys kept by the Obama administration. His confirmation vote in late April was a landslide, 94 U.S. Senators voted in his favor. This means that even most democrats were fine with him taking the lead in the Russian investigation at the Justice Department. Now, in just three short weeks, Rosenstein is one of the most polarizing players in Washington. “I had very high regard for Rod as a prosecutor and public servant. He was a true and dedicated and capable prosecutor every step of the way and served multiple administration,” said Ron Hosko, the president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund. “However, his involvement in these events and the timing is questionable. That it’s his second week on the job and he’s focused on something James Comey did nine months ago is beyond curious to me.”
In an NBC News interview last week, President Trump praised Rosenstein and took complete responsibility for the decision to fire James Comey. This appeared to contradict the letter Trump had written to Comey where he claimed that the decision was based on Rosenstein’s memo. “He made a recommendation,” Trump said of Rosenstein. “He’s highly respected, very good guy, very smart guy. The Democrats like him; the Republicans like him. He made a recommendation, but regardless of the recommendation, I was going to fire Comey.”
Benjamin Wittes, a Brookings Institution senior fellow and Comey friend, talked about the damage done to Rod Rosenstein. “Trump happily traded the reputation of Rosenstein, who began the week as a well-respected career prosecutor, for barely 24 hours of laughably transparent talking points in the news cycle,” Wittes wrote. “These are the costs of working for Trump, and it took Rosenstein only two weeks to pay them. The only decent course now is to name a special prosecutor and then resign.”
The White House administration does not think it is necessary for Rosenstein to resign or name a special prosecutor. “We don’t think it’s necessary,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Thursday. “You’ve got the deputy attorney general who I would say is about as independent as it comes, due to the fact that he has such bipartisan support,” she added.
What do you think Rod Rosenstein should do?
Credit: The Hill