Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein submitted his resignation to Monday, bringing to a close a tumultuous two years at the helm of the Mueller investigation that saw him alternatively enrage President Donald Trump and anti-Trumpers on the left. Rosenstein had been rumored to be on his way out of the Justice Department for months—and throughout the ups and downs of the special counsel investigation always seemed precarious in the job—but will officially leave his post, on his own terms, on May 11.
The resignation letter reads as an affirmation of some of the achievements that Rosenstein believes have been accomplished during his tenure at the DOJ. The note also has a number of more cryptic passages that are either aimed at Trump himself or as a reminder of the principles that the Justice Department aims to embody. “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,’ ” Rosenstein wrote in his resignation letter. “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.”
Rosenstein’s legacy remains unclear, but the second in command at the DOJ was in the thick of this tumultuous presidency from the outset and made what was the most consequential move of Trump’s presidency so far—the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel in May 2017. Rosenstein had been handed decision-making authority over the Russian investigation after then–Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself. While the appointment of Mueller to investigate Trump’s Russia ties and possible obstruction of justice angered the Trump administration, Rosenstein also tweaked the left by writing a letter critical of James Comey that was used by Trump to fire the then–FBI Ddirector in the early days of his presidency. More recently, despite managing to stay in his job long enough to see the Mueller investigation to its completion, Rosenstein sided with Attorney General Bill Barr on his handling of the release of Mueller’s findings. The roll-out has been criticized as a cover up operation for the president.
Rosenstein’s successor, Jeffrey Rosen, is awaiting confirmation from the Senate.