Attorney General Jeff Sessions is being called on to recuse himself from the forthcoming investigation into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election. This comes after The Washington Post reported that Sessions met with the ambassador of Russia while serving as a Trump campaign surrogate.
If Sessions were to recuse himself, the case would go to the deputy attorney general. That is currently Dana Boente, but Boente will soon be replaced by Trump’s own nominee for the position, Rod J. Rosenstein. Rosenstein was nominated by the Trump administration in January, and he will have his confirmation hearing on March 7th.
Here’s what you need to know about Rod J. Rosenstein.
1. He Served as Counsel to the Deputy Attorney General During the Clinton Administration
Rosenstein earned his law degree from Harvard Law School, and after graduating, he landed himself a job in the U.S. Justice Department’s public integrity section. Later, Rosenstein was hired by Deputy Attorney General Philip Heymann to serve as counsel; Rosenstein had come recommended by a career prosecutor who Heymann trusted, according to The Washington Post.
“I would have trusted him with anything,” Heymann told The Post. “If there was a case where I was worried there was a perception we were being unfair, I would trust him to do the right thing and to do the job.”
Rosenstein also served as special assistant to Criminal Division Assistant Attorney General Jo Ann Harris.
2. He Worked Under Ken Starr, Who Oversaw the Whitewater Investigation
It looks like Rod Rosenstein will soon be part of a crucial investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. election, but this will not be his first time being caught up in a massive political story.
After serving as counsel to the U.S. deputy attorney general, Rosenstein served as special assistant in the Department of Justice and then as associate independent counsel under Ken Starr, who oversaw the Whitewater investigation in the 1990s, according to The Baltimore Sun.
This was the investigation into President Bill Clinton, with Clinton being accused of providing an illegal loan while investing in real estate. Clinton was never prosecuted, but Starr released The Starr Report, in which Starr said that Bill Clinton had lied about his affair with Monica Lewinsky. Rosenstein was no longer working for Starr by the time the Lewinsky scandal began.
Rosenstein subsequently went to Maryland to serve as assistant U.S. attorney for Lynne A. Battaglia.
3. George W. Bush Appointed Him to the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland
From 2001 to 2005, Rosenstein worked in the U.S. Justice Department as principal deputy assistant attorney general for the tax division, and then in 2005, President George W. Bush appointed him to serve as U.S. attorney for the United States District Court for the District of Maryland.
One high-profile case that Rosenstein prosecuted during this time was that of Jack B. Johnson, a county executive in Maryland who was accused of hiding cash bribes. According to The Washington Post, Rosenstein’s office spent five years building their case against Johnson. Johnson in 2011 pleaded guilty to extortion and witness and evidence tampering. He was given a prison sentence of just over seven years, and he’s currently at a federal halfway house.
Rosenstein prosecuted a number of corruption cases, and just this week, he announced an indictment against seven Baltimore police officers accused of racketeering and of stealing money from people’s cars and homes, according to Slate.
When President Barack Obama took office in 2009, he kept on Rosenstein as U.S. attorney for Maryland, a sign that Rosenstein is respected by both Republicans and Democrats.
4. George W. Bush Tried to Appoint Him to an Appeals Court Seat in 2007, but the Senate Did Not Confirm Him
Just because Rosenstein is respected by both Republicans and Democrats, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been at the center of intense political debate.
In November 2007, President George W. Bush appointed Rosenstein to serve on the U.S Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. This was to fill a seat that had been vacant for seven years due to a confirmation battle with echoes of the recent Merrick Garland fight in the Senate.
That seat on the circuit court of appeals was vacated in 2000, when Francis Dominic Murnaghan Jr. died. Because Murnaghan died during an election year, Republicans argued that the seat should be left vacant until after the upcoming election, as they did in 2016 with President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. Bill Clinton nominated Andre M. Davis in 2000, but Republicans put off confirming him until after November. Luckily for them, a Republican won that year, and so they could now appoint their own pick for the position.
But then President George W. Bush had a difficult time getting any of his nominees approved, trying and failing to fill the seat three times in a row. Rosenstein was nominated as Bush’s third choice, but Democrats in Maryland were against the pick, saying that Rosenstein lacked “a lengthy history of state legal experience in Maryland and strong Maryland roots,” according to The Washington Post.
It was 2007 by the time that Rosenstein’s nomination was being discussed, so by that point, it seemed that the Democrats were now the ones trying to put off the nomination until after the 2008 election as Republicans had done seven years prior. This worked out for them, as when Barack Obama assumed office in 2009, he nominated Andre M. Davis, the man that Bill Clinton had picked in 2000 and whose nomination was stalled by Republicans until after the election, meaning the nearly decade-long political battle was a complete waste of time.
5. His Wife, Lisa, Is Also a Lawyer
Rod Rosenstein is married to Lisa Barsoomian, who works as a lawyer at National Institutes of Health, according to The Washington Post.
Rod and Lisa have two daughters: 17-year-old Julie and 15-year-old Allison.
Rosenstein was nominated to serve as deputy attorney general of the United States by President Donald Trump on January 31st, 2017.