Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein plans to leave the Department of Justice next month following a chaotic tenure that saw him bear the brunt of President Donald Trump’s rage over the ongoing inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Both Reuters and CNN reported Monday that Rosenstein, a career prosecutor, would step down sometime in mid-March, citing a senior Justice Department official. CNN’s Laura Jarrett reported that his replacement could be announced as early as this week.
HuffPost has reached out to the DOJ for comment.
Reports that Rosenstein’s departure was imminent first appeared in January. He initially planned to leave shortly after Trump’s pick to become the next attorney general, William Barr, was confirmed by the Senate, ensuring he’d stick around to aid in a smooth transition.
Barr was confirmed in a 54-45 vote last week, mostly along party lines, and will succeed Jeff Sessions. He is expected to tap Jeffrey Rosen, who currently serves as the deputy transportation secretary, as his deputy at the Justice Department. That position will require its own Senate confirmation vote.
Barr will assume control over special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing inquiry into Russian meddling in the presidential campaign, but lawmakers have already expressed worry about his impartiality due to his views on presidential power.
The New York Times reported in December that Barr wrote a 19-page memo criticizing the opinion that Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey amounted to obstruction of justice.
“It’s becoming pretty clear that the president is basing his choices for leadership at the Justice Department on candidates’ criticism of the Mueller investigation,” Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) wrote on Twitter at the time.
Trump has long been critical of Rosenstein’s tenure at the DOJ following Sessions’ recusal over any matter at the agency related to the Russia probe. The deputy attorney general appointed Mueller in May 2017, giving the special counsel broad authority to investigate Russian interference but also “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.”
Such a wide purview has already swept up many members within Trump’s orbit, including the president’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, his former personal attorney Michael Cohen and his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, among others.
Mueller’s investigation is reportedly nearing its conclusion, and the Times reported that Rosenstein’s departure was independent of the special counsel’s timeline.