Rosenstein expected to leave Justice Department within weeks

Frederick Owens
January 9, 2019

Ahead of Barr's Senate confirmation hearing next week, top Justice Department officials have sought to downplay his previous argument that the president can't be investigated for obstructing justice.

Rosenstein has been overseeing Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, accusations that Moscow has repeatedly denied.

Also, Rosenstein told senators during his 2017 confirmation hearing that he would not remain in his post if he believed that he was being pressured to influence any investigations.

But after Mr Session was ousted in November, his replacement Matthew Whitaker took over the investigation, refusing to recuse himself despite his previous public criticism of the probe.

President Trump's nominee to become the next attorney general began his round of visits to Capitol Hill on Wednesday as Washington prepared for a changing of the guard at the Justice Department.

Barr asserted that the president had been acting within his executive branch of authority when he made the request and said Mueller "should not be permitted to demand that the president submit to interrogation about alleged obstruction".

Mr Trump has repeatedly railed against the special counsel's probe into claims that Russian Federation sought to influence the election in Mr Trump's favour.

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When exactly Rosenstein leaves could shift depending on the timing of Barr's confirmation and the naming of a new deputy attorney general.

Whitaker also was critical or skeptical about the special counsel investigation.

Rosenstein will stay on to ensure a smooth transition with Barr, an official told Reuters news agency, adding that he saw his job as deputy as a two-year stint and is not being forced out.

The White House cast Rosenstein's departure as his choice.

Rosenstein was said to have discussed removing Trump from office or secretly recording conversations with him; he said he never authorized any action after those conversations but Justice Department sources said he expected to be fired.

"It's being handled appropriately", Rosenstein told reporters last month.

Rosenstein himself has sought to allay fears about the effect of any one leader on the workings of the Justice Department generally and the Russian Federation investigation specifically. However, Rosenstein has continued to be the main Justice Department official to interact with Mueller and receive updates on the investigation.

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