Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein turned in his letter of resignation Monday, thanking President Trump and even complimenting his private ‘courtesy’ despite the president going after him publicly during the Mueller probe.
Rosenstein was in the role of acting attorney general when he named Special Counsel Robert Mueller to head the Russia probe – a move that would infuriate President Trump for two years and put his job on the line.
During one peak of his rage, the president retweeted an image that included Mueller and Rosenstein among a group of officials pictured behind bars.
‘Now that Russia collusion is a proven lie, when do the trials for treason begin?’ said the tweet.
Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein resigned his post, effective May 11, in a letter that thanked President Trump and also pointed to the importance of the rule of law
Scroll down for Rosenstein’s full letter
The tweet also showed former President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton, Comey, Hillary Clinton, and others pictured behind bars.
The president also fumed when it was revealed Rosenstein had mentioned wearing a wire during private top-level Justice Department conversations during the tumultuous period after the firing of FBI James Comey.
Rosenstein played a role in that matter as well, drafting a letter that Trump used to justify the firing that became a central feature of Mueller’s obstruction of justice probe of the president.
The Washington Post reported this week that Rosenstein shared his angst to former Chief of Staff John Kelly following the report that he had discussed wearing a wire.
‘I can go. I’m ready to go. I can resign. But I don’t want to go out with a tweet,’ he said, a source told the paper.
‘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,’ Rosenstein wrote the president.
ALL IN GOOD FUN: Rosenstein thanked President Trump ‘for the courtesy and humor you often display in our personal conversations’
Rosenstein joined Attorney General William Barr in the decision not to prosecute Trump, Barr said
Rosenstein wrote a letter the president used to justify the firing of FBI Director James Comey
President Trump went after Rosenstein in several tweets
”The rule of law is the foundation of America,’ Rosenstein wrote in his resignation letter
Rosenstein’s letter concluded with a lengthy passage about the rule of law and the importance of non-partisan enforcement of the nation’s laws.
‘The rule of law is the foundation of America. It secures our freedom, allows our citizens to flourish, and enables our nation to serve as a model of liberty and justice for all,’ Rosenstein wrote.
Although he does not tie the passage to current events, it follows his last significant act as deputy AG – signing on to a decision by Attorney General William Barr not to prosecute Trump for obstruction of justice.
Barr announced the decision in his letter to Congress two days after receiving the Mueller report. Democrats howled at the decision, which Trump used to complain the report was a ‘complete and total exoneration’ of him, before it had yet been made public.
Rosenstein also stood with Barr when he spoke publicly about the report on the day of its release, when Barr said there was no evidence Trump or other Americans ‘colluded’ with the Russians.
Barr also added a statement that backed up the president on potential obstruction – even as the Mueller report ran through detailed examinations of 10 examples of where the president may have committed obstruction.
Rosenstein thanked President Trump for his courtesy and defended the importance of the rule of law in his resignation letter, submitted Monday
Rosenstein wrote a scathing letter that Trump used to justify the firing of FBI Director James Comey
‘And as the Special Counsel’s report acknowledges, there is substantial evidence to show that the President was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks,’ said Barr.
Rosenstein wrote: ‘At the Department of Justice, we stand watch over what Attorney General Robert Jackson called ‘the inner ramparts of our society the Constitution, its guarantees, our freedoms and the supremacy of law.’
He said the department ‘bears a special responsibility to avoid partisanship. Political considerations may influence policy choices, but neutral principles must drive decisions about individual cases.’
He added: ‘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.’
Mueller devoted considerable resources to untangling whether Trump sought to thwart the probe of him being carried out by the special counsel and federal prosecutors.
In April 2018, Trump tweeted: ‘Much of the bad blood with Russia is caused by the Fake & Corrupt Russia Investigation, headed up by the all Democrat loyalists, or people that worked for Obama. Mueller is most conflicted of all (except Rosenstein who signed FISA & Comey letter). No Collusion, so they go crazy!’
In a February 2019 tweet, Trump wrote: ‘Wow, so many lies by now disgraced acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe. He was fired for lying, and now his story gets even more deranged. He and Rod Rosenstein, who was hired by Jeff Sessions (another beauty), look like they were planning a very illegal act, and got caught….’
But Trump also took to Twitter to deny a Washington Post report that he referred privately to former AG Jeff Sessions as ‘Mr. Magoo’ and Rosenstein as ‘Mr. Peepers.’
Trump added: ‘There are no such people and don’t know these characters.’
Rosenstein was also on hand for another key moment of the Mueller probe, announcing the indictments of 13 Russians who hacked Democratic emails and operated as part of a St. Petersburg-based troll farm. He made only a brief mention of Russian election interference in his letter.
‘Our nation is safer, our elections are more secure, and our citizens are better informed about covert foreign influence efforts and schemes to commit fraud, steal intellectual property, and launch cyberattacks,’ he wrote.
READ ROD ROSENSTEIN’S FULL RESIGNATION LETTER TO TRUMP
Dear Mr. President:
The Department of Justice made rapid progress in achieving the Administration’s law enforcement priorities – reducing violent crime, curtailing opioid abuse, protecting consumers, improving immigration enforcement, and building confidence in the police while preserving national security and strengthening federal efforts in other areas.
We staffed the Department of Justice and the US. Attorneys’ Offices with skilled and principled leaders devoted to the values that make America great.
By consulting stakeholders, implementing constructive policies, reducing bureaucracy. and using results~driven management, we maximized the public benefit of our $28 billion budget. Productivity rose, and crime fell.
Our nation is safer, our elections are more secure, and our citizens are better informed about covert foreign influence efforts and schemes to commit fraud, steal intellectual property, and launch cyberattacks.
We also pursued illegal leaks, investigated credible allegations of employee misconduct, and accommodated congressional oversight without compromising law enforcement interests. I commend our 115,000 employees for their accomplishments and their devotion to duty. As Thomas Paine wrote, ‘Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must undergo the fatigues of supporting it.’
The median tenure of a Deputy Attorney General is 16 months, and few serve longer than two years.
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.’ The Department of Justice pursues those goals while operating in accordance with the rule of law.
The rule of law is the foundation of America. It secures our freedom, allows our citizens to flourish, and enables our nation to serve as a model of liberty and justice for all.
At the Department of Justice, we stand watch over what Attorney General Robert Jackson called ‘the inner ramparts of our society the Constitution, its guarantees, our freedoms and the supremacy of law.’
As a result, the Department bears a special responsibility to avoid partisanship. Political considerations may influence policy choices, but neutral principles must drive decisions about individual cases. In 1940, Jackson explained that government lawyers ‘must at times risk ourselves and our records to defend our legal processes from discredit, and to maintain a dispassionate, disinterested, and impartial enforcement of the law.’
Facing ‘corrosive skepticism and cynicism concerning the administration of justice’ in 1975, Edward Levi urged us to ‘make clear by word and deed that our law is not an instrument of partisan purpose used in ways which are careless of the higher values within us all.’ In 2001, John Ashcroft called for ‘a professional Justice Department free from politics uncompromisingly fair defined by integrity and dedicated to upholding the rule of law.’
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.
We keep the faith, we follow the rules, and we always put America first.
Rod J. Rosenstein
TIMELINE OF KEY MOMENTS FOR DEPUTY AG ROD ROSENSTEIN
Rod Rosenstein first joined the Department of Justice in 1990, when he was tasked with prosecuting public corruption cases with the Public Integrity Section of the Criminal Division.
During the Clinton administration, Rosenstein served as counsel to Deputy Attorney General Philip B. Heymann.
In 1994 he was named special assistant to Criminal Division Assistant Attorney General Jo Ann Harris.
Rosenstein also worked for Ken Starr, the independent counsel who was leading the Whitewater investigation into President Bill Clinton.
In 2005, Rosenstein was unanimously confirmed as U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland.
In 2017, President Trump nominated Rosenstein to be deputy attorney general under Jeff Sessions.
Rosenstein was confirmed by the Senate in April 2017 by a vote of 94-6.
On May 8, 2017, Trump asked both Sessions and Rosenstein to put in writing a case against then-FBI Director James Comey which would serve as the basis for his removal.
On May 9, 2017, President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. He cited a memo written by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as the basis for Comey’s dismissal
Rosenstein wrote in the document that the FBI needs a ‘Director who understands the gravity of the mistakes and pledges never to repeat them.’
The letter by Rosenstein is used by Trump as justification for Comey’s firing.
It was reported that Rosenstein threatened to resign after administration officials cited the memo as reason for Comey’s dismissal, but Rosenstein denied this.
Comey was fired on May 9 by Trump. In the termination letter, Trump said he was acting on the recommendation of Sessions and Rosenstein.
During his private meetings with Trump, Comey wrote memos that included his recollections of the talks.
Comey wrote that Trump asked him to end the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
On May 11, 2017, Trump gave an interview to Lester Holt of NBC News in which he said that he let Comey go because of ‘this Russia thing.’
The FBI at the time was investigating alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 elections.
In March, Sessions recused himself from overseeing Russia-related investigation, which meant that Rosenstein served as acting attorney general on the matter.
On May 17, Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate the Russia matter.
A month later, it is learned that Mueller expanded the scope of the investigation to probe whether Trump obstructed justice.
Throughout the investigation, Rosenstein was subject to fierce criticism from Congressional Republicans who accused the Justice Department and the FBI of having an anti-Trump bias that was guiding their thinking in the Russia matter.
On June 13, Rosenstein testifies before the Senate, telling lawmakers that he is the only person empowered to fire Mueller.
Rosenstein also told senators that he did not see any reason for dismissing Mueller.
On August 2, Rosenstein gave Mueller the go-ahead to investigate Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, for ‘colluding with Russian government officials.’
Manafort was also being investigated for receiving payments from Ukrainian politicians as part of consulting work he did in the Eastern European country.
Throughout this period, Rosenstein resists calls from Republicans to shut down the Mueller probe, particularly after it was learned that Peter Strzok, an FBI investigator working with the special counsel, sent text messages to his lover containing criticisms of Trump.
On December 13, 2017, Rosenstein appeared before the House Judiciary Committee.
He told lawmakers that he saw no reason to fire Mueller. Rosenstein also said that Strzok was removed from the special counsel’s team in a timely manner and that the probe was not a ‘witch hunt,’ as the president claimed.
In late January 2018, it was reported that Trump demanded the firing of Mueller, but White House Counsel Don McGahn threatened to resign, forcing the president to back down.
In March, Congressional Republicans demand Rosenstein hand over confidential documents related to the Russia investigation, namely anything tied to FISA surveillance of Carter Page, a Trump campaign official.
On April 12, Rosenstein tells Trump that he is not a target in Mueller’s probe.
In May, Rosenstein agrees to allow Congressional leaders to view ‘highly classified and other information they have requested’ related to the Russia investigation.
On May 17, 2017, Rod Rosenstein, who is acting attorney general after Jeff Sessions recused himself from all Russia-related investigations, appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel to probe Russian interference in the 2016 elections
In September, The New York Times reported that former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe wrote memos in which Rosenstein is portrayed as someone who talked of secretly wearing a wire when meeting with Trump.
Rosenstein was also said to have discussed removing Trump with cabinet officials by invoking the 25th Amendment.
Rosenstein disputed the accuracy of the Times story.
On November 7, 2018, Sessions resigned. He was replaced by Matthew Whitaker, who served as acting attorney general.
On February 14, 2019, the Senate votes to confirm William Barr, Trump’s nominee to replace Sessions, as attorney general.
Barr assumes broad authority over how much of the Mueller report to release.
On March 22, Mueller submits his confidential report on the findings of his investigation to Barr.
Two days later, Barr releases a summary of the ‘principal conclusions’ of Mueller’s report and wrote that the investigation did not establish that members of Trump’s election campaign conspired with Russia.
Mueller did not exonerate Trump on obstruction of justice, said Barr, who himself concluded the inquiry had not found sufficient evidence to warrant criminal obstruction charges against Trump.
On March 25, Democratic lawmakers demand that Barr send the full Mueller report and any underlying documents to Congress by April 2 and say the attorney general’s summary is not sufficient. The deadline is not met.
On April 3, the Democratic-led House of Representatives Judiciary Committee voted to enable its chairman, Jerrold Nadler, to subpoena the Justice Department to obtain Mueller’s unredacted report and all underlying evidence as well as documents and testimony from five former Trump aides.
On April 18, the Justice Department releases a redacted version of the Mueller report.