- Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein plans to leave the Department of Justice after a permanent replacement for former Attorney General Jeff Sessions is confirmed by the Senate, multiple news outlets reported Wednesday.
Rosenstein is currently overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, which Trump decries as a “rigged witch hunt” against him.
- NBC’s Pete Williams reported that he intends to stay in his current position until Mueller submits his final report on his investigation to the DOJ.
- Legal experts and DOJ veterans said Rosenstein’s departure does not necessarily put the Mueller probe in danger.
Multiple news outlets reported Tuesday that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein plans to leave the Department of Justice after a new attorney general to replace Jeff Sessions is confirmed by the Senate.
Rosenstein, who previously served as a US Attorney from Maryland, became a target of hardline Republicans in Congress and President Donald Trump for his work overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Some observers feared that Rosenstein’s departure could spell danger for the Mueller probe. William Barr, the Trump administration’s nominee to replace Sessions as attorney general, recently sent an unprompted letter to the DOJ laying out his concerns with the legality some aspects of the Mueller investigation.
But DOJ veterans and legal experts aren’t concerned that Rosenstein’s departure combined with Barr’s scepticism of some aspects of the Mueller probe mean Mueller is in danger. Here’s what they said:
William Barr came under scrutiny for sending an unsolicited 20-page memo to the DOJ criticising the Mueller probe’s line of investigation into possible obstruction of justice and witness tampering by Trump.
Source: Business Insider
The memo called Mueller’s inquiry into whether Trump obstructed justice by when he fired FBI director James Comey “legally unsupportable” and “potentially disastrous.”
Source: Business Insider
“Either Barr is very worked up about Mueller’s obstruction investigation or he was angling for a job,” wrote former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti of the memo.
Source: Renato Mariotti/Twitter
Complicating matters further, Sen. Lindsey Graham told reporters on Wednesday that Barr and Mueller have been friends for decades, with their wives attending the same Bible study and Mueller appearing at the weddings of Barr’s daughters.
Steven Dennis/Bloomberg News
Despite Barr’s scepticism towards the obstruction aspect of the Mueller probe, legal experts and DOJ veterans say Rosenstein’s departure doesn’t necessarily spell disaster for Mueller.
“This is actually one of the most normal things we’ve seen happen in the Justice Department—and a sign that Rod Rosenstein is confident about the progress of the Mueller probe,” wrote journalist and Mueller biographer Garrett Graff.
“It is not unusual for a new attorney general to bring in a new [deputy attorney general]. It seems Rosenstein stayed on as long as possible in order to protect Mueller’s work,” Jeffrey Cramer, a longtime former federal prosecutor who spent 12 years at the Justice Department, told INSIDER.
By all accounts, the Mueller probe is moving full speed ahead. The DC judge overseeing Mueller’s grand jury extended the grand jury’s tenure for another six months, regardless of the situation at the DOJ.
“That doesn’t mean it will run into summer, but his work would conclude quicker if people would stop lying to Congress and investigators,” Cramer said of the extended grand jury.
Citing a source close to Rosenstein, NBC’s Pete Williams reported that he intends to stay in his current position until Mueller submits his final report on his investigation to the DOJ.
On Jan. 15 and 16, Barr will appear for his confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, now chaired by Sen. Graham.
“Safe to say there will be ample questions to William Barr in his confirmation hearing about the investigation and whether it should conclude,” Cramer added.
A number of Senate Democrats on the committee recently told INSIDER’s Joe Perticone that they plan to extensively question Barr regarding his views on the special counsel investigation.
Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware told INSIDER that a plan for Rosenstein to continue to oversee the Mueller probe if Barr is confirmed as AG “would be met with fairly broad enthusiasm.”
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