WASHINGTON: US Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who chose Special Counsel Robert Mueller to lead the Russia interference probe and protected him from political intrusion, announced Monday he was stepping down, reports AFP.
In a letter to President Donald Trump, Rosenstein said he would depart on May 11, after more than two turbulent years as the second highest-ranking official in the Department of Justice.The veteran Republican prosecutor, 54, stunned the country on May 17, 2017 when he named an independent lawyer to take on the Russia probe after Trump fired FBI director James Comey.
Then-attorney general Jeff Sessions had already recused himself from overseeing the investigation, leaving Rosenstein in charge.
That made Rosenstein effectively the one buffer between Mueller and the White House—a position that became even more crucial when the investigation began examining whether Trump himself had obstructed justice by firing Comey and then trying to have Mueller ousted.
In his final report released on April 18, Mueller concluded that no one on Trump’s campaign conspired to collude with Russians.
But he reached no conclusion on obstruction, detailing the evidence he had accumulated and leaving it to Congress to act.
Ahead of the release of the report, Rosenstein stood silently next to Attorney General Bill Barr as Barr asserted that there was not enough evidence in Mueller’s report to charge Trump with obstruction—a claim that many lawyers said was false.Rosenstein had made clear last year that he would step down after Mueller’s report was released.
His tenure was rocky and he drew strong criticism for doing Trump’s bidding on numerous other questionable policies, like the president’s attempt to ban Muslim immigrants and his legally dubious policies to block migrants at the southern border.