Wick Media Series Part 1: Rod Rosenstein
I’ve spent the past two weeks peeling back the layers of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein like an onion. With every layer I peeled back, I found one deep state connection after another. The network of government lawyers in DC is a dazzling matrix of dinner party pals, Ivy League marriages, and is probably the one place where bipartisanship flourishes; provided you subscribe to naked and uninhibited reciprocity. It’s here, like a yellowed and over-stuffed rolodex, where you will find the seedlings that sprouted the endlessly and awkwardly enduring government career of Rod J. Rosenstein.
Rosenstein graduated in 1989 from Harvard Law with honors, where he had a spot on the coveted Harvard Law Review. He went to clerk for Judge Douglas Ginsberg, who you might remember as the second successive failed Supreme Court nomination, after Robert Bjork, by Ronald Reagan in 1987. After which, Rod joined the ever so cleverly entitled Public Integrity Section of the Criminal Division at the Justice Department. Exactly none of you will be surprised to know that office was run Robert Mueller. Mueller and Rosenstein go back to 1990.
After serving in a couple related positions in the Clinton DOJ, Rosenstein was hired by US Attorney Lynne Battaglia in 1997. Battaglia was a former Chief-of-Staff to long-time Democratic US Senator Barb Mikulski, of Maryland, a figure who was seen as crucial in keeping Rosenstein employed later on through the Obama Administration. Next stop on the government gravy train, at the behest of Senator Mikulski, was a nomination to serve as US Attorney in Maryland. A few years later, in this capacity, then Attorney General Eric Holder handpicked Rosenstein to prosecute the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General James Cartwright for leaking classified intelligence. Rosenstein was said to be so “aggressive” in his handling of the case, that the General was forced to accept a guilty plea. Seems like a lot work considering Obama turned around and pardoned him.
In 2007, Rosenstein had a shot at what most assume to be his ultimate career goal: a federal judgeship. Bush nominated Rod for the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, but it was a bridge too far, even for his political benefactor, Sen. Mikulski, who could not get her colleague Sen. Cardin to drop the “blue slip” against Rosenstein. The Democrats in the Senate dutifully held the vacancy until 2009 when Obama would fill it.
President Trump nominated Rosenstein to serve as a deputy Attorney General on January 13, 2017. His Senate confirmation was not until April 25th and was a resounding 94-6 in favor. His fellow Deputy nominee, Rachel Brand, received no such bipartsan support, passing by a party-line vote. One look at each of their resumes will tell you, it wasn’t about qualifications that influenced these differentials.
Enough, though. This isn’t a glorified Wikipedia piece on the life and times of government legal beagle swimming in the swamp for 27 years. This is about a rare breed whose survival tendencies are more chameleon than cockroach. I’ve talked with several lawyers, all of whom worked with or near Rosenstein, and they all shared the assessment that the only thing exceptional about Rod was his unbridled desire to remain in the public sector.
It’s not uncommon for the same four or five Washington law firms to provide safe harbor for lawyers of both parties during administration changes. That never seemed to cross Rod’s mind, and for that, most of his former colleagues found him…”odd.”
They weren’t the only ones who had reservations about him. None other than the infamous king of the cross-ailse cha-cha, James B. Comey, wasn’t comfortable with Rosenstein, either. According to Lawfare blog editor, and Comey confidant, Ben Wittes, Comey said that “Rod is a survivor…and you don’t get to survive that long across administrations without making compromises…so I have concerns.” Comey made this alleged admission in late March, mere weeks before his queasiness was proven justified. Somewhat justified; I should qualify.
One particular lawyer who witnessed Rod in action as the US Attorney in Maryland told me, “It was like Rod was running a farm team in the Maryland office for Eric Holder at Justice Main. He sent quite a few top deputies to Holder, including the ultimate fall guy for Holder’s ‘Fast and Furious’ operation, Jamie Weinstein.” But that wasn’t all he said, “Rod is a Lanny Breuer guy, too. Funny how nobody knows Lanny’s name. Ask Sen. Chuck Grassley, he knows it. He demanded his resignation after ‘Fast and Furious’ hit the House and Senate hearing circuit.” And finally, “Lanny let UBS and HSBC walk with fines…and if those weren’t financial crimes warranting jail terms, then there haven’t been any in my lifetime.”
From there I explored whether or not Rosenstein’s proclivities would lean towards recusal in light of his role in Comey’s firing. One fellow Bush appointee who worked with Rod opined that “(Rod) is clever enough to know staying in charge is his only job protection, and for the ‘experts’ he likes to keep around him.” Of particular interest, he noted “someone in Congress needs to ask Rod if he’s spoken about the ongoing investigation or the selection of Bob Mueller with anyone from Covington & Burling…that would drain the blood from his face.”
It is no secret to anyone in DC that Mueller and Rosenstein have a relationship. Nor is it a secret that Mueller and Comey are very, very close. I was trying to come to terms with this floated notion, made by some, that Rosenstein is a potential “Trojan Horse” that has caused mayhem since his arrival. I’m no less convinced as to that possibility now, than I was before I made more inquiries.
Not the least of which was a copy of a letter received from a friend on Sen. Grassley’s staff from early March, stating how qualified and upstanding Rod would be as a Deputy Attorney General to Jeff Sessions. Signed proudly by reputed ‘Fast and Furious’ architect Lanny Breuer, liberal Eric Holder acolyte Mythili Raman and (here’s where my stomach turned) new FBI nominee Christopher Wray. After my concerned reply, the staffer’s texted response only heightened my anxiety, “LOL…you didn’t know that? Mueller, Comey and Wray were tight back in the day. They all laced the gloves up against Cheney together. There’s no daylight here, man. Don’t complain to us. Call Chuck Cooper…”
With that, I realize the conservative media has failed us. Maybe I have failed you, too. I will do my best to get better and keep Trump supporters more informed. It’s a maze of incestuous, self-serving protectionism. That doesn’t mean we lay down and take it., though. That’s not how Trump nation turned the tables in 11/9/16 and we aren’t changing.
Now, anybody got a bottle of aspirin and Chuck Cooper’s cell number?