The White House announced Tuesday night that President Donald Trump plans to nominate Deputy Transportation Secretary Jeffrey Rosen to replace Rod Rosenstein as deputy attorney general.
Rosenstein has been overseeing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe of Russia’s 2016 election meddling and related actions by the president and his associates. He said earlier Tuesday he plans to leave in mid-March.
Rosen is a Washington veteran who returned to the Transportation Department in 2017 after being its general counsel under President George W. Bush from 2003 to 2006. He also served as general counsel and senior policy adviser for Bush’s Office of Management and Budget from 2006 to 2009.
Attorney General William P. Barr, who was confirmed and sworn in last week, in a statement called Rosen a “distinguished lawyer” who has “supervised more than 400 attorneys while serving as general counsel at the Department of Transportation.” New Cabinet heads typically want deputies of their own choosing, or ones they sign off on.
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said in a statement distributed by the White House that she would be “sorry to lose” Rosen if he is confirmed.
“But I am confident that he is the right lawyer to help the new attorney general succeed at the Justice Department, for the benefit of the American people,” she added.
The departing deputy attorney general has come under frequent criticism from Trump, most recently Monday when the president tweeted that Rosenstein and former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe engaged in a “treasonous” plot to remove him via the 25th Amendment.
As he makes the media rounds promoting a new tell-all book, McCabe has said Rosenstein, during the early months of the Trump presidency, floated the 25th Amendment option and at least twice suggested he could wear a wire during Oval Office meetings with Trump to collect evidence to support the removal option.
Rosenstein continues to deny McCabe’s recollection of events.
Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman, whose time as OMB chief in the Bush White House partly overlapped with Rosen’s tenure there, praised the expected nominee in a statement.
“Jeff Rosen was a trusted advisor when I served as the director of the Office of Management and Budget,” Portman said. “I have known him for more than a decade as a man of integrity and I know he will serve with distinction as the deputy attorney general. I look forward to supporting his confirmation.”
Portman’s pledge comes even before any formal nomination and confirmation hearings for Rosen. Republican senators have criticized their Democratic counterparts for opposing Trump’s nominees as soon as their expected nominations were announced.
The statement of endorsement from Chao, who is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and an apparent lack of public statements from Rosen about Mueller’s probe, per an initial internet search, could increase his odds of being confirmed. Barr faced numerous questions during his confirmation hearing about whether he would continue the Mueller probe and publish its findings.
Given his background, Rosen appears a believer in the powers of the office of the presidency. Scholars have questioned whether Barr will be a Trump defender or principally motivated in protecting the office he occupies.
Also watch: Trump announces national emergency on border, despite likely legal challenge