Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein beat back questions about threats to the rule of law and defended the Justice Department’s independence in a wide-ranging question and answer session Tuesday in Washington.
The sit-down at the Newseum – where Rosenstein also gave revealing responses to questions lobbed by the media and the public about his detractors on Capitol Hill, the investigation into President Donald Trump’s election campaign, and the press – was a moment of unusual candor for the man charged with overseeing the special counsel probe.
“I don’t think there’s any threat to rule of law in America today,” Rosenstein said, citing the country’s culture and constitutional rights, when quizzed by the event’s moderator, law professor Ronald Collins.
Asked by Collins how he manages conflicts between the rule of law and a President who has mused about meddling with his own Justice Department, Rosenstein pushed back.
“There are no such conflicts,” Rosenstein said. “The Justice Department is independent of inappropriate political considerations. I think it’s important to recognize it’s not independent of the executive branch – the department has a responsibility to be in accord with the priorities of the administration, and that’s what elections are for.”
Despite his typically administrative and low-profile position, Rosenstein, a Republican, has found himself the target of ire from the President and conservative groups.
Following the FBI raid last month on Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen, multiple sources told CNN the President was considering firing Rosenstein. On Monday, The Washington Post reported that a group of House Republicans had drafted articles of impeachment for the deputy attorney general, a “last resort” document, one of its authors said, that could imperil special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.
Tuesday, Rosenstein saved his harshest fire for his critics in Congress, portraying the Republicans who leaked the draft document to the Pos