Jeff Sessions praised Rod Rosenstein before the Devin Nunes memo was released

Jeff Sessions. Alex Wong/Getty Images
  • US Attorney General Jeff Sessions had glowing words for his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, hours before the Devin Nunes memo was released on Friday.
  • At a Justice Department event, Sessions said Rosenstein and Rosenstein’s deputy, Rachel Brand, represent “the kind of quality and leadership that we want in the department.”
  • Sessions’ praise for Rosenstein and Brand caught some attention in part because the Nunes memo attempts to implicate Rosenstein, among others, in accusations of improper surveillance at the FBI and the DOJ.
  • The attorney general’s comments gained further significance after the memo came out, when Trump said “you figure that one out” in response to questions about whether he would seek to fire Rosenstein,

Attorney General Jeff Sessions praised his second-in-command, Rod Rosenstein, hours before the disputed Devin Nunes memo came out on Friday.

Sessions was preparing to speak at a Justice Department event when he paused to applaud Rosenstein and associate attorney general Rachel Brand after she had introduced Sessions to the audience.

“Thank you, Rachel, for your kind words and, more importantly, for your strong leadership as our third in command at the department,” Sessions said.

“Rod and Rachel are Harvard graduates, they are experienced lawyers. Rod’s had 27 years in the department, Rachel’s had a number of years in the department previously, so they both represent the kind of quality and leadership we want in the department,” Sessions continued.

Watch Sessions speak below:

His remarks preceded the release of the memo alleging in part that Rosenstein improperly extended surveillance of the Trump campaign adviser Carter Page during the 2016 election.

Rosenstein is one of several law-enforcement officials who signed off on surveillance of Page as part of the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 US election. Page had been a concern for US counterintelligence officials since 2013.

Rosenstein in May 2017 appointed special counsel Robert Mueller to oversee the Russia investigation and he has since been the target of some of President Donald Trump’s harshest public criticism. Those criticisms have prompted speculation that Trump was looking for reasons to fire Rosenstein.

When reporters asked Trump on Friday whether he would move to dismiss Rosenstein, Trump said “You figure that one out.” A White House spokesperson told CNN on Friday night that there would be “no changes” at the Justice Department.

The memo, written by House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes and other top Republican lawmakers, accuses some officials at the FBI and the DOJ of acting on what it calls political bias against Trump.

Current and former officials at the agencies and some Democratic lawmakers have criticised the memo, calling it an attempt to discredit top law-enforcement institutions in the interest of protecting Trump.