After months of waiting, Rod Rosenstein is finally retiring from the Trump administration. The deputy attorney general reportedly wished to resign as soon as the Senate confirmed William Barr as the new head of the Justice Department. But Barr asked Rosenstein to stay on while Robert Mueller’s investigation wound up, and Rosenstein obliged.
After Jeff Sessions recused himself from the investigation into Russian interference in 2017, Rosenstein inherited authority over that probe. Thus, it was the deputy AG who decided to appoint Robert Mueller as special counsel. This did not endear Rosenstein to the commander-in-chief. Nor, for that matter, did reports that Rosenstein had once entertained secretly recording his conversations with the president, so as to build a case that he was unfit for office under the 25th Amendment (reports Rosenstein denies). Donald Trump publicly disparaged Rosenstein on many occasions — at one point, going so far as to accuse Rosenstein of “planning a very illegal act.”
This background led many (liberal) observers to view Rosenstein as the last remaining principled public servant in a DOJ leadership that was increasingly dominated by the president’s lackeys. Thus, when Rosenstein stood behind Barr as the latter delivered his shamefully partisan and misleading press conference ahead of the Mueller report’s release, many in the media read implicit disapproval in Rosenstein’s thousand-yard stare.
But they were wrong. In public remarks last week, Rosenstein criticized former FBI director James Comey for his unauthorized leaks, chided the Obama administration for its failure to “publicize the full story about Russian computer hackers and social media trolls,” and delivered an indictment of the media that Donald Trump would have gladly cheered. “Some of the nonsense that passes for breaking news today would not be worth the paper was printed on,” Rosenstein said, “if anybody bothered to print it.”
So it’s not terribly surprising that Rosenstein’s farewell letter includes unctuous praise of a president who repeatedly interfered with a federal investigation in a manner that investigators were not comfortable describing as legal.
“I am grateful 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 writes.
Rosenstein goes on to triumphantly tout the Trump DOJ’s utter lack of partisanship.
How America’s citizens are served by Rosenstein making that manifestly false claim is unclear.