WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump selected a top transportation official late Tuesday to replace Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as the second-in-command of the Justice Department at a time when it is in the midst of multiple criminal investigations that continue to shadow his administration.
The nomination of Jeffrey Rosen, the Transportation Department’s deputy secretary, had been rumored since Attorney General William Barr took office earlier this month. If he is confirmed, Rosen will assume a job that has taken on outsize importance over the past two years as Rosenstein both oversaw and protected an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election that was under relentless attack from the White House.
Rosen would replace Rosenstein, whose tumultuous 21-month tenure at the department has been inextricably linked to the ongoing Russia investigation. Neither the White House nor the Justice Department specified exactly when Rosenstein, a longtime federal prosecutor, planned to leave the job.
Rosen has never worked at Justice, making him an unusual choice to oversee the daily operations of a sprawling federal law enforcement agency, particularly at a time when it is carrying out such sensitive and closely watched investigations. He and Barr worked for years at the same Washington law firm.
Barr said in a statement that Rosen’s “years of outstanding legal and management experience make him an excellent choice.”
Almost immediately after his confirmation in 2017, Rosenstein assumed an unusual public profile for a deputy attorney general when he authored a memo justifying the firing of then-FBI Director James Comey.
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Because former Attorney General Jeff Sessions had recused himself from matters related to Russia, Rosenstein oversaw the investigation into the 2016 election, then installed Robert Mueller as a special counsel to lead it. Since then, Rosenstein has been a shield for Mueller as Trump and some Republican lawmakers mulled removing them both.
With Barr now in control of the department and the Russia inquiry, Rosen’s role is expected to focus on the agency’s day-to-day operations in 94 districts across the country.
Aside from his government service, Rosen worked for more than 30 years at the same law firm, Kirkland & Ellis LLP, where Barr served as of counsel before his nomination as attorney general.
Rosen was a senior partner at the firm and served as the co-director of the firm’s Washington office.
He graduated with a B.A. in economics from Northwestern University in 1979, and earned his law degree from Harvard Law School in 1982.