WASHINGTON — Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, said Monday that he would leave the Justice Department in mid-May, bringing to a close a turbulent two-year tenure that was overshadowed by the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s efforts to sway the 2016 election in favor of President Trump.
“As I submit my resignation effective on May 11, I am grateful to you for the opportunity to serve,” Mr. Rosenstein wrote in a resignation letter to Mr. Trump. Despite a stormy relationship with the president, he praised Mr. Trump in the letter, thanking him for “the courtesy and humor” he displayed in their conversations together and for championing “patriotism, unity, safety, education and prosperity” in his inaugural address.
Department officials close to Mr. Rosenstein had previously signaled that he would leave after the completion of the report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, which was made public this month. The investigation had thrust him into a political maelstrom, challenging his reputation as a principled Republican lawyer with a distaste for politics that had been honed over 30 years as a federal prosecutor and United States attorney.
He responded by trying to thread a needle, striving to preserve the rule of law and protect one of the department’s most important investigations while publicly praising a president who he knew was determined to undermine both. It meant Mr. Rosenstein often disappointed critics on the left and the right.
The balancing act began almost immediately after Mr. Rosenstein’s confirmation as the No. 2 Justice Department official in April 2017. Two weeks later, Mr. Trump used a memo written by Mr. Rosenstein as a pretext to abruptly fire James B. Comey, the director of the F.B.I., a decision that privately upset Mr. Rosenstein because it was not true. When the president asked Mr. Rosenstein to publicly take responsibility for Mr. Comey’s firing, he declined and told Mr. Trump that he would not lie.
Amid public outrage over the firing, Mr. Rosenstein appointed Mr. Mueller to take over the F.B.I.’s investigation into whether Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election and what part any members of the Trump campaign may have played in those efforts, as well as whether the president tried to obstruct the investigation.
He then oversaw Mr. Mueller’s work because Jeff Sessions, a former Trump campaign adviser and the attorney general at the time, had recused himself from all campaign-related inquiries.
He did not use his oversight of the special counsel’s office to veto Mr. Mueller’s investigative requests or suppress his work, which he knew the president would have wanted. But throughout the investigation, and Mr. Trump’s efforts to end the inquiry and attack the department, he publicly praised the president as a defender of the rule of law.
His job was at times threatened as the Russia investigation drew closer to Mr. Trump’s inner circle and the president worked publicly and privately to undermine the department and its officials. And he was nearly fired in September, after The New York Times revealed that he had discussed the possibility of removing Mr. Trump from office and wearing a wire into meetings with the president.
But Mr. Rosenstein managed to get back into Mr. Trump’s good graces and see the special counsel’s investigation through to the end.
Mr. Mueller ultimately concluded that Russia interfered in the election to help Mr. Trump win, but that while the Trump campaign “expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts,” it had not conspired with the Russian government.
Mr. Mueller also laid out several instances where Mr. Trump attempted to derail the investigation, but he ultimately allowed department officials to decide whether those amounted to obstruction of justice. Mr. Rosenstein and Attorney General William P. Barr said they did not believe there was enough evidence to bring those charges.
Mr. Rosenstein “has navigated many challenging situations with strength, grace and good humor,” Mr. Barr said in a statement Monday. “Rod has been an invaluable partner to me during my return to the department, and I have relied heavily on his leadership and judgment over the past several months.”
Mr. Trump had already nominated Jeffrey A. Rosen, the current deputy transportation secretary, to replace Mr. Rosenstein. With a Republican majority in the Senate, Mr. Rosen is expected to be confirmed next month with little trouble.
Officials had indicated that Mr. Rosenstein would leave the department in March, when they also expected the Mueller investigation to end. But Mr. Mueller and his team did not submit their final report to the department until March 22, and a redacted version was not made public until this month, delaying Mr. Rosenstein’s departure.
(Reporting By New York Times)
Read Rod Rosenstein’s full official letter of resignation below:
White House Wanted USS John S. McCain Obscured During Trump’s Japan Visit
The White House asked Navy officials to obscure the USS John S. McCain while President Trump was visiting Japan, Pentagon and White House officials said Wednesday night.
A senior Navy official confirmed he was aware someone at the White House sent a message to service officials in the Pacific requesting that the USS John McCain be kept out of the picture while the president was there. That led to photographs taken Friday of a tarp obscuring the McCain name, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
When senior Navy officials grasped what was happening, they directed Navy personnel who were present to stop, the senior official said. The tarp was removed on Saturday, before Trump’s visit, he added.
The White House request was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
The crew of the McCain also was not invited to Trump’s visit, which occurred on the USS Wasp. But a Navy official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said it was because the crew was released from duty for the long holiday weekend, along with sailors from another ship, the USS Stethem.
A senior White House official also confirmed that they did not want the destroyer with the McCain name seen in photographs. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said the president was not involved in the planning, but the request was made to keep Trump from being upset during the visit.
Trump tweeted Wednesday night that he wasn’t involved.
“I was not informed about anything having to do with the Navy Ship USS John S. McCain during my recent visit to Japan. Nevertheless, @FLOTUS and I loved being with our great Military Men and Women – what a spectacular job they do!” he wrote.
The Journal reported that Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan knew of the White House’s concerns and approved military officials’ efforts to obscure it from view.
The U.S. Navy reportedly went to great lengths to shield Trump from seeing the ship. Officials told the Journal they first covered it with a tarp, then used a barge to block the name and gave the sailors on the ship the day off, the Journal reported. A Navy official told The Washington Post that the barge was moved before the event involving Trump.
Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a Navy spokesman, said that images of the tarp covering the ship are from Friday, and it was taken down Saturday.
“All ships remained in normal configuration during the President’s visit,” he said in an email, challenging the suggestion that a barge was moved to block it.
The Navy’s one-star admiral in charge of public affairs, Rear Adm. Charles Brown, also tweeted Wednesday night: “The name of USS John S. McCain was not obscured during the POTUS visit to Yokosuka on Memorial Day. The Navy is proud of that ship, its crew, its namesake and its heritage.”
Before John McCain’s death in August 2018, the Navy added the senator’s name to the ship, already named the USS John McCain after his father and grandfather, both admirals. The ship is stationed in Japan, where it’s being repaired after a fatal crash in 2017.
Trump has continued to speak ill of the late senator in his public remarks and on social media. Meghan McCain, who is quick to come to her father’s defense, immediately blasted Trump on Twitter.
“Trump is a child who will always be deeply threatened by the greatness of my dads incredible life,” Meghan McCain tweeted. “There is a lot of criticism of how much I speak about my dad, but nine months since he passed, Trump won’t let him RIP. So I have to stand up for him. It makes my grief unbearable.”
Mark Salter, McCain’s long time speechwriter and co-author, tweeted, “Perhaps the late Senator’s Armed Services Committee colleagues will have questions about this for the acting SecDef, whose confirmation ought to be in jeopardy.”
Trump began attacking McCain during the presidential campaign when he said McCain wasn’t a war hero because he’d been captured. McCain was a prisoner of war in Vietnam for more than five years.
The president also blames McCain for voting against a Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Trump often says the law would be gone if not for McCain, which isn’t true.
McCain did not want Trump at his funeral, but his presence was felt in the eulogies past presidents and friends gave. Meghan McCain offered the most direct rebuke of the current president, using his campaign slogan as a not-so-veiled dig.
“The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because America was always great,” she said in her eulogy for her father.
(Reporting by Washington Post)
UPDATE: A confirmed email has been found by CNBC which purports to contradict what Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan claimed on Wednesday.
Former Virginia Attorney General Joining Trump Administration
WASHINGTON (AP) — Ken Cuccinelli, the former attorney general of Virginia, will be joining the Trump administration.
A White House official confirms Cuccinelli will be taking a position at the Homeland Security Department, focusing on immigration. The person spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of an official announcement.
The Associated Press first reported last month Trump was considering bringing on Cuccinelli as an “immigration czar” to coordinate immigration policy across federal agencies. But the official said Cuccinelli will not be assuming that role.
The hire comes as Trump is struggling with a migrant surge at the southern border that is straining federal resources.
Cuccinelli has in the past advocated for denying citizenship to the American-born children of parents living in the U.S. illegally.
He didn’t immediately respond Tuesday to a request for comment.
White House Considering Derek Kan For Federal Reserve Board Seat
The White House is considering Derek Kan, an undersecretary at the Department of Transportation, for one of two open seats on the Federal Reserve Board, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Kan, who has been a senior adviser to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao since 2017, has served on the board of directors for Amtrak and was previously general manager of ride-hailing company Lyft Inc. He earned his MBA from Stanford University and studied economic history at the London School of Economics, according to a profile on the Department of Transportation website.
President Donald Trump has struggled to find candidates for the Fed that are acceptable to the senators who vote to confirm them. Trump has named four people for the two open seats on the board of governors. None of them has made it through the Senate, raising questions about the White House vetting process for his picks.
The White House declined immediate comment.
(Reporting by Bloomberg News)
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