President Donald Trump paid Rod Rosenstein a rare compliment on Wednesday, one day after he refused to say whether he still has confidence in the deputy attorney general.
Rosenstein oversees the special counsel’s investigation and has been a frequent target of criticism from the President and his allies. But Wednesday, he was one of just four federal officials who joined Trump for a roundtable session focused on combating the MS-13 criminal gang and illegal immigration.
Rosenstein earned Trump’s praise after outlining steps the Justice Department has taken to combat MS-13 and other violent gangs and listing specific immigration law loopholes Congress should work to close.
“That’s great, Rod, and I think that’s happening. We have seen a willingness, even to a certain extent by the Democrats, starting to come around but it’s brutal. It’s brutal,” Trump said. “As you know better than anybody, it’s a tough situation. We need the laws enhanced very substantially and very quickly. Thank you, Rod, very nice.”
The out-of-character accolade from the President came after Rosenstein directed flattery of his own at the President, thanking him for his “leadership.”
Trump and Rosenstein also shook hands as the President walked in – with Trump even offering a hearty pat on the shoulder.
The interaction between the two men comes as Trump and his allies have stepped up their efforts to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, with Trump parroting unfounded claims that the previous administration carried out politically motivated “spying” of his 2016 presidential campaign. The FBI used a confidential source to gather information about suspected contacts between Trump campaign aides and Russia, but did not plant a spy in the campaign and there is no evidence the effort was politically motivated.
Rosenstein was at the center of a fight with the President’s conservative allies in the House of Representatives who had threatened to hold him in contempt of Congress for withholding classified documents about the source.
Trump has also privately mulled firing Rosenstein, CNN has previously reported.
Rosenstein responded to the threats from the conservative lawmakers earlier this month, asserting the Justice Department would not be “extorted.”
“There have been people who have been making threats, privately and publicly, against me for quite some time,” he said during an event at the Newseum in Washington. “And I think they should understand by now, the Department of Justice is not going to be extorted.”