On Monday evening, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein wrote a notably effusive letter to President Donald Trump announcing his impending resignation.
But while Rosenstein announced that his resignation would become effective by May 11, he’s already facing rhetoric from congressional Democrats that he may be called to testify about his role in the recent release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report — as well as his interactions, and potential concerns, about Trump’s relationship with the rule of law.
In an appearance on MSNBC Monday, Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, described Rosenstein’s tenure as “very disappointing, especially the way that he handled things at the end” alongside Attorney General William Barr.
“It’ll be interesting to see whether he comes before our committee and what he has to say now that he will not be an employee of the Department of Justice,” Bass added.
Her response follows similar comments last week from Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), also a member of the House Judiciary Committee, who said he “expect[s]” Rosenstein to be called to testify.
The House Judiciary Committee has already called for testimony from others intimately involved in the release of the recent Mueller report, including those close to Rosenstein. But some of those requests have been met with pushback. For instance, Barr — who is scheduled to speak before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday — has rejected the committee’s plans for extended questioning. Barr has also denied requests from committee chair Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) to conduct closed-door discussions on the redacted portions of Mueller’s report.
Rosenstein appointed special counsel Mueller in 2017 after the president fired then-FBI Director James Comey.
The resignation letter from Rosenstein wasn’t necessarily a surprise — he hinted he might leave his post shortly after Mueller submitted his final report. The language in the letter, however, raised eyebrows for flattering Trump. In his letter, Rosenstein praised the president’s “courtesy and humor,” as well as Trump’s pledge to pursue “unity.”
Rosenstein’s letter comes just a few months after Trump tweeted an image showing Rosenstein, Mueller, and Comey behind bars. The text on the image Trump tweeted reads, “Now that Russia collusion is a proven lie, when do the trials for treason begin?”
Rosenstein’s letter also contained an overview on the state of the rule of law in the United States, but failed to note any of the president’s assaults on the underpinnings of judicial independence. For instance, just 10 days ago we learned in the Mueller report that Trump attempted to get then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to unrecuse himself for the Mueller investigation — even going so far as to try to enlist a non-governmental employee, Corey Lewandowski, in his efforts. Trump likewise attempted to limit Mueller’s investigation to only future elections, a move intended to protect Trump campaign officials, such as former campaign manager Paul Manafort and former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, who have since been jailed for their activities during and after the 2016 campaign.
All of these details, and many more, are contained within the redacted Mueller report.
Concerns about Rosenstein’s independence, and fealty to the law, have percolated ever since the earliest days of the Trump presidency. For instance, shortly after Trump fired Comey — perhaps the clearest instance of Trump’s obstruction of justice to date — Comey expressed reservations about Rosenstein, referring to him as a “survivor.” Rosenstein reportedly suggested to the president he was on his side, telling Trump he could “land the plane,” in reference to the investigation and apparently in an effort to save his own job.
As it is, Rosenstein managed to survive his tenure in the Trump White House, and there’s no indication Trump pushed him out, as the president did with so many others. As Rosenstein concluded his letter, “We keep the faith, we follow the rules, and we always put America first.”