Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is not ignorant of controversy in Washington.
In 2006, Rosenstein was appointed U.S. Attorney for Maryland after then President George W. Bush fired seven U.S. Attorneys including Maryland’s Thomas M. DiBiagio.
Bethesda resident Rosenstein, the newly-appointed Deputy Attorney General for the U.S. Department of Justice, is now in the middle of one of the biggest stories in the country after President Donald J. Trump fired James Comey as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation last week.
Trump made the decision to fire Comey the same day Rosenstein wrote a letter criticizing Comey’s investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, saying Comey had lost trust with the public.
The next day Vice President Mike Pence said Trump made the decision to fire Comey after reading Rosenstein’s letter, but that statement was contradicted the next day when the president told Lester Holt of NBC News that his decision to fire Comey was not based on Rosenstein’s letter.
“I was going to fire regardless of recommendation,” Trump told Holt.
Rosenstein, a long time U.S. attorney that has wide bipartisan support, is now in the midst of the largest political battle in the country.
Trump appointed Rosenstein in January and the Senate confirmed him 94 to 6 on April 25.
Former Maryland Attorney General and Democratic candidate for governor Doug Gansler said that Rosenstein was always above partisan politics while serving as U.S. Attorney for Maryland.
“I like him. I think he's an incredible, ethical, apolitical, bright, fair prosecutor,” Gansler said.
Gansler said he worked with Rosenstein while he was the Maryland Attorney General and Rosenstein was the U.S. Attorney for Maryland. Gansler said he had a good professional relationship with Rosenstein, regardless of the fact that Gansler was a Democrat and Rosenstein was appointed by a Republican president.
Gansler wrote a letter to the U.S. Senate Judiciary committee, offering his support for Rosenstein saying he was the first U.S. Attorney for Maryland that properly used the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act to prosecute gang members.
“Rod has not only aggressively prosecuted dangerous gangs and criminals in Maryland, but also (prosecuted) elected officials who violated the public’s trust,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) told the Senate Judiciary committee as he introduced Rosenstein. “He has shown impartiality in these investigations, and his successful prosecutions have led to ethics reforms that increased transparency and public confidence in Maryland.
Rosenstein received strong bipartisan support during the confirmation process earning the praise of Van Hollen and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.).
Rosenstein did receive some pushback though from a few Democratic senators, who balked at voting to confirm him because he would not commit to agreeing to appoint special counsel to oversee the Justice Department’s investigation into the Russian government’s interference into the 2016 presidential election.
“I voted against Rod Rosenstein’s nomination to the #2 spot at the Department of Justice precisely because he refused to commit to a special prosecutor for this Russia investigation,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in a written statement.
Some Democrats have asked for a special prosecutor to lead the investigation into the Russian government’s involvement into the presidential election. While Gansler said Rosenstein is apolitical, he recommends that there be a special prosecutor.
“Because of what just happened I don’t think he has any choice… but to hire a special prosecutor,” Gansler said.
Originally from Philadelphia, Rosenstein worked at various offices at the U.S. Department of Justice for most of the last 23 years.
“My oath is an obligation, it requires me to support and defend the Constitution of the United States,” Rosenstein said. “…as you know I’ve taken that oath a few times. I’ve administered that oath many times. I know it by heart, I understand what it means and I intend to honor it.”
Notably, Rosenstein prosecuted General James Cartwright, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about leaking information to journalists about Iran’s nuclear program. President Barack Obama eventually pardoned Cartwright.