Rod Rosenstein, in defending the independence of Robert S. Mueller’s investigation, could be threatening the independence of the Department of Justice, the New York Times reported.
Rosenstein, the deputy director of DOJ, has walked a fine line over the past two weeks. There have been ample rumors coming out of the White House that Donald Trump is looking for an excuse to fire Rosenstein. Republican members of Congress have also sharply criticized Rosenstein for refusing to hand over certain documents, including former FBI director James Comey’s memos. (Rosenstein released the memos over the weekend.)
But by getting dragged into a political fight, observers are saying that Rosenstein is jeopardizing the DOJ’s independence from politics. Part of the controversy has to do with honoring Congress’ request to see the memos — traditionally, Congress has not asked to see documents from ongoing DOJ investigations.
“It could become an exception that swallows the rule,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., a former federal prosecutor. “Every request by Congress can be made to seem exceptional.”
While his colleagues describe Rosenstein as a very careful lawer and “the ultimate survivor,” it is unclear how much longer Rosenstein can continue to thread the needle. Former colleagues have described him as unpolitical when it came to his job, and Rosenstein made a clear effort to placate Trump after the FBI’s raid on Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime lawyer.