Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein — whose tumultuous two years as the No. 2 Justice Department official was marked by battles over the special counsel probe of President Trump — submitted a resignation letter Monday indicating he will leave the job in two weeks.
Rosenstein’s departure had been expected since the beginning of the year, but the date was repeatedly pushed back as special counsel Robert S. Mueller III wound down his investigation and compiled a report detailing his findings.
Since his first days on the job, Rosenstein’s role in the Trump administration was controversial, from the firing of then-FBI Director James B. Comey in May 2017 to the conclusion reached by Rosenstein and Attorney General William P. Barr that the president had not committed obstruction of justice.
In his resignation letter to Trump, Rosenstein praised the president for his personal charm and policy goals.
“As I submit my resignation effective on May 11, I am grateful to you for the opportunity to serve; for the courtesy and humor you often display in our personal conversations; and for the goals you set in your inaugural address: patriotism, unity, safety, education, and prosperity, because ‘a nation exists to serve its citizens’,” Rosenstein wrote.
He ended his letter with a sentence that asserted the Justice Department’s independence, before closing with a phrase from Trump’s campaign: “We keep the faith, we follow the rules, and we always put America first.”
The resignation letter was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
The new attorney general praised Rosenstein’s long career in federal law enforcement.
“Over the course of his distinguished government career, he has navigated many challenging situations with strength, grace, and good humor,” Barr said in a statement. “Rod has been an invaluable partner to me during my return to the Department, and I have relied heavily on his leadership and judgment over the past several months.”
Earlier this year, Trump nominated Rosenstein’s replacement, current Deputy Transportation Secretary Jeffrey Rosen, though Rosen still must be confirmed by the Senate.
Rosenstein’s resignation letter comes days after The Washington Post reported that he had assured Trump in a call last year that the special counsel investigation would treat the president fairly, and that he was on Trump’s team.
The September conversation, according to people familiar with it, followed an explosive New York Times report revealing that Rosenstein had suggested wearing a wear to surreptitiously monitor the president, or using the 25th Amendment to oust him from office — reporting that Rosenstein disputes.
“I give the investigation credibility,” Rosenstein told Trump, according to an administration official with knowledge of what was said during the call. “I can land the plane.”
In his resignation letter, Rosenstein extolled the Justice Department’s accomplishments during the Trump administration.
“We enforce the law without fear or favor because credible evidence is not partisan, and truth is not determined by opinion polls. We ignore fleeting distractions and focus our attention on the things that matter, because a republic that endures is not governed by the news cycle,” Rosenstein wrote.
He also defended the department’s handling of the Russia probe, writing the country “is safer, our elections are more secure, and our citizens are better informed about covert foreign influence efforts.”
Rosenstein went on to cite the kinds of cases in which the president has expressed a personal interest. “We also pursued illegal leaks, investigated credible allegations of employee misconduct, and accommodated congressional oversight without compromising law enforcement interests,” he wrote.
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SOURCE: The Washington Post, Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky