After hanging tight until the release of the Mueller report, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has finally submitted his resignation letter to the president, announcing that he will be stepping down on May 11. He had indicated this intention to vacate the post last month, so there is little surprise here, but does this signify something far more important? Perhaps the end of an era?
When Donald Trump first took office, his methods of staffing the upper levels of government were clear: He picked people with proven track records, who would face little opposition. Rosenstein, having been the longest-serving United States Attorney for the District of Maryland, fit the bill.
But was this choice made by the president to build allies, or was it the decision of a man who had yet to find his groove in a new job?
A Trustworthy Team
In his resignation letter, Rosenstein expressed thanks to the president, stating he was grateful “for the opportunity to serve; for the courtesy and humor you often display in our personal conversations; and for the goals you set in your inaugural address: patriotism, unity, safety, education, and prosperity, because ‘a nation exists to serve its citizens.’”
Recently appointed AG William Barr, in response, wrote that Rosenstein had served with distinction and that “over the course of his distinguished government career, he has navigated many challenging situations with strength, grace, and good humor.”
All fairly boilerplate stuff. But with the Mueller report on the verge of becoming a finished chapter, the president seems eager to start building a team that he can rely on.
The soon-to-be former deputy AG found himself under fire numerous times during his short appointment, including one major incident that exposed where his loyalties lie. Soon after the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, The New York Times alleged that Rosenstein had offered to wear a “wire” in order to secretly record meetings with President Trump; presumably with the aim of helping Democrats mount an impeachment campaign. From that moment on, Rosenstein was “damaged goods” to the administration. While many have suggested that the offer to record conversations with the president was intended as a joke, in the hyper-paranoid DC swamp, such things are rarely taken lightly.
Comey out, Rosenstein soon to leave, Sessions a distant memory, and just a few key positions remain held by men and women who would not be considered friends of the administration. Is it likely that we will see appointments and nominations of Trump loyalists in the next few months? We can expect only those with a proven track record of both competence and loyalty to be touted for the top spots. And with the Russian Collusion investigation over, Congress will have to come up with far more credible reasons to block them.
Now that the Mueller report is all but dead and buried, the president has room to maneuver and appoint without new allegations of “obstruction” being leveled at him. The Trump administration has arguably been hampered in carrying out its duty by the two-year investigation that amounted to nothing; some would suggest it has been hamstrung. It would appear we are about to witness a wholesale reshuffling of the top tier of government by a president who has learned from his past mistakes.
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