Rod Rosenstein Expected to Leave Justice Dept. Once Attorney General Is Confirmed

WASHINGTON — Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who had been overseeing the Russia investigation, is expected to leave the Justice Department after President Trump’s choice to run the department is confirmed, according to two administration officials.

Mr. Rosenstein has been a central figure in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and any ties to the Trump campaign — both by appointing a special counsel to take over the inquiry and for becoming a target of the president’s rage. He had always considered the deputy attorney general job as a two-year stint, one administration official said.

Mr. Trump nominated William P. Barr to be attorney general, after he fired his first attorney general, Jeff Sessions. Mr. Sessions recused himself from overseeing the Russia investigation in 2017, which is when Mr. Rosenstein stepped into that oversight role. His oversight lasted until the appointment of the interim attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, in November. Confirmation hearings for Mr. Barr are scheduled to begin Jan. 15.

Once it was clear that Mr. Sessions’s time at the department was running out, Mr. Rosenstein quietly supported replacing him with Mr. Barr, according to a person who has discussed the issue with Mr. Rosenstein. He and Mr. Barr previously worked together at the Justice Department during the George H.W. Bush administration.

Mr. Trump has been critical of Mr. Rosenstein, lashing out at him for approving an application to extend surveillance of a former Trump campaign associate, and saying that he is “conflicted” in his oversight role of the Mueller investigation.

And in September, after The New York Times reported that Mr. Rosenstein had previously made remarks about Mr. Trump’s fitness to be president and had offered to secretly record conversations with him, Mr. Rosenstein’s employment at the Justice Department appeared to be in jeopardy. At one point, Mr. Rosenstein, who denied the report, told senior White House officials that he wished to resign.

Mr. Trump chose not to fire Mr. Rosenstein at the time. But in November, he shared a meme on Twitter of his political opponents pictured in a jail cell, and Mr. Rosenstein was portrayed among them, next to Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Rosenstein in December joked about his unfavorable standing with Mr. Trump. At a conference where the president was to appear later, he said: “You let the president know that his favorite deputy attorney general was here.”

As former United States attorney in Maryland for 12 years, serving under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Mr. Rosenstein told lawmakers during his confirmation proceedings, “Political affiliation is irrelevant to my work.”

A few months into his new job, Mr. Rosenstein found himself thrust into the middle of a political maelstrom that would permeate his entire tenure as deputy attorney general.

When Mr. Trump abruptly fired his first F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, the president said he made his decision at the suggestion from both the attorney general at the time, Mr. Sessions, and Mr. Rosenstein. Mr. Trump cited a memorandum written by Mr. Rosenstein that was critical of Mr. Comey’s handling of the final stages of the F.B.I. investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private server. Mr. Comey’s firing was met with bipartisan outrage, directed at Mr. Trump and Mr. Rosenstein.

But as quickly as Mr. Rosenstein’s stock may have plummeted over his role in Mr. Comey’s ouster, it was restored when he named Mr. Mueller to take over the Russia investigation.

Mr. Mueller, in addition to the Russia inquiry, is investigating whether Mr. Trump tried to obstruct the Russia investigation. Since Mr. Rosenstein appointed him, Mr. Mueller has delivered more than 100 criminal counts against dozens of people and three companies.

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