Rod Rosenstein to leave DOJ

The Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein who oversees the federal investigation against Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election is set to leave the Department of Justice in a matter of weeks.

Background

Rod Rosenstein has been serving as the United States Deputy Attorney General since 2017. Before his current appointment, he served as a United States Attorney for the District of Maryland. President Donald Trump had nominated Rosenstein to serve as Deputy Attorney General for the United States Department of Justice. At the time of confirmation, Rosenstein was the nation's longest-serving U.S. Attorney.

On May 17, Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller as a special counsel to investigate "any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump" as well as any matters arising directly from that investigation.

The ongoing special counsel investigation is headed by Robert Mueller, a former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The investigation includes any possible links and/or coordination between Donald Trump's presidential campaign and the Russian government, "and any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation." In addition, the scope of the investigation reportedly includes potential obstruction of justice by Trump and others.

Analysis

Rod Rosenstein, the Deputy Attorney General and the one who oversees the federal investigation into President Trump’s campaign ties with Russia has announced that he is set to leave the Department of Justice.

He is expected to leave the department after the Senate confirms William Barr, who was nominated by President Donald Trump to succeed ousted Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

An administration official highlighted that the reason for Mr Rosenstein decision to leave is not due to any pressure from the White House and to ensure “a smooth transition” he will stay on till William Barr is confirmed. According to the official, Mr Rosenstein intended to serve about two years as the Justice Department's No. 2 official.

Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator who will chair the confirmation hearings spoke highly of Mr Barr. She said: “I can assure you he has a very high opinion of Mr Mueller and he is committed to letting Mr Mueller finish his job.”

Besides Rosenstein also strongly supported Barr's nomination and said the Russian inquiry will be proceeding as it should.

The incoming chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said that Attorney General nominee William Barr has confidence in special counsel Robert Mueller and will let him complete his Russia investigation.

Many Democrats expressed deep concern after hearing Rosenstein’s announcement. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said the development at Justice "heightens the stakes" for Barr's looming confirmation hearing.

Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the assistant Democratic leader and a member of the Judiciary Committee said: “I’m concerned when this man, who has a good reputation as a lawyer and professional, volunteers to the Trump administration that they should constrain Mueller’s investigation.” He also added that this is not a good starting point for “someone who as attorney general would have supervisory authority over the investigation.”

This is not the first time that questions have been raised about Mr Rosenstein stepping down. It was reported in the New York Times in September that he had suggested wearing a wire in 2017 to record Mr Trump. Mr Rosenstein however, denied the report, he said that the story was "based on anonymous sources who are obviously biased against the department".

Several legal sources say that they expect the Mueller investigation to conclude by mid-to-late February, although they also said that timeline could change based on unforeseen developments.

Counterpoint

President Trump on numerous occasions publicly criticised Mr Rosenstein. On Twitter, he shared an image that showed Mr Rosenstein behind bars. When asked about the shared image he said to New York Post that “He should have never picked a special counsel”.

Many of Trump’s most fervent Republican allies have duly pounded Rosenstein, with conservative lawmakers complaining that he has stalled their requests for more documents revealing findings of the Muller investigation.

Assessment

Our assessment is that Rod Rosenstein’s stepping down has indeed come as a shock to all. We believe that despite assurances that the new and incoming DAG would still support the Muller investigation, many doubts still prevail. We feel that the Mueller investigation is the biggest threat to trump presidency. We also believe that the present government shutdown that has lasted for 19 days is serving as a strategy to divert the attention from the investigation, as it is in its conclusive stage.