(Gray News) - Rod Rosenstein is expected to depart the Justice Department once a new attorney general is sworn in, media reports say.
Rosenstein has communicated this to President Donald Trump and the White House that he plans depart the administration after William Barr, Trump’s nominee for attorney general, is confirmed by the Senate.
The media reports quoted a source familiar with Rosenstein’s thinking.
In a Q&A session outside of the White House, press secretary Sarah Sanders seemed to confirm the news.
“I haven’t spoken to the president about that specifically this morning. I know that deputy attorney general had always planned to stay around two years," she said. "He would like to help with the transition of bringing the new attorney general in. We hope that happens relatively soon. I know he wants to allow him to build a new team. He’s doing a great job and we’ll let him make any further announcements on that from here.”
Rosenstein is second in command at the Justice Department, and had been the top official for the Russia investigation from its outset until the departure of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
He appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel last year after Sessions recused himself from the probe.
Sessions resigned from his position at the request of Trump in November. His chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, took over as acting attorney general and assumed supervisory control of the Russia investigation from Rosenstein.
The deputy attorney general had been something of an unlikely survivor through multiple precarious periods.
Most recently, on a dramatic late September afternoon, rumors swirled about Rosenstein’s possible exit.
None of that came to pass, and a planned meeting between him and Trump fell by the wayside as Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation saga consumed the president’s attention.
In early October, Trump signaled the tension had passed, saying he’d had a “really nice talk” with Rosenstein and that “we actually get along.”
Rosenstein was a consequential, and controversial, appointment from the beginning of the Trump presidency.
In May 2017 he wrote the memo the president used as the primary justification for firing James Comey as FBI director. Days later, he appointed the special counsel and began to oversee his work.
Allies of the president long argued Rosenstein was not properly reigning in the scope of Mueller’s investigation. And Trump implicated him frequently in his accusations that the Russia investigation was a “witch hunt.”
They contended Rosenstein was slow, or failing entirely, to turn over requested documents related to the Russia investigation.
A series of FBI raids, reportedly signed off on by Rosenstein, in April targeting Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, drew the president’s particular ire at that time.
"It’s a disgraceful situation. It's a total witch hunt. It’s an attack on our country. It’s an attack on what we all stand for," Trump said.
Rosenstein revealed some exasperation at all of the pressure in May.
“I think they should understand by now that the Department of Justice is not going to be extorted,” he said, referring to Republican critics. “We’re going to do what’s required by the rule of law, and any kind of threats that anybody makes are not going to affect the way we do our job.”
Rosenstein joined the Justice Department in 1990. He served a number of roles before becoming the U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland, a role he held until his nomination by Trump in 2017.
The George W. Bush administration nominated him in 2007 to a federal judgeship, but Maryland’s senators blocked the nomination because they wanted to keep him as the U.S. attorney in their state.