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Noah Feldman

Rosenstein Bent the Rules to Protect Mueller — and It Worked

The deputy attorney general should have recused himself at least twice, but didn’t, and stood up to Trump in the process.

His job is done.

His job is done.

Photographer: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

History’s verdict on Rod Rosenstein’s tumultuous two years as deputy attorney general will be mixed, if he does leave as expected when a new U.S. attorney general is confirmed. Rosenstein broke the normal rules to save a shred of normality. Usually that kind of compromise doesn’t work. In this case, it did — mostly.

Rosenstein is going to be remembered first for naming Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election. Because Attorney General Jeff Sessions was recused from anything Russia related, because of his false statements to Congress during his confirmation process about his Russian contacts, Rosenstein also had the task of supervising Mueller. Rosenstein’s second important accomplishment was to successfully protect Mueller from being fired by President Donald Trump, despite repeated threats and attacks on the investigation from the White House.