Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is not known for snappy one-liners, especially where President Trump is concerned.
But he drew laughs Wednesday in Kansas City at the opening of a three-day Department of Justice conference on crime prevention. Referring to Trump’s scheduled appearance on Friday, Rosenstein said: “You let the president know that his favorite deputy attorney general was here.”
Rosenstein has been a central player in the investigation that has transfixed the capital virtually from the beginning of Trump’s presidency. After Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself last year from the probe into Russia’s involvement in Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel to handle the inquiry.
In November, oversight of Mueller was turned over to new acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, who will address the conference Thursday.
A career prosecutor who served as U.S. attorney in Maryland for 12 years, Rosenstein has been a frequent target of Trump’s Twitter-rage for his handling of the Mueller inquiry. He nearly got himself fired in September after a report that he considered secretly taping conversations with the president. Rosenstein denied the report.
Last week, he was included among a gallery of Washington figures behind bars in an image retweeted by Trump.
Asked about it in an interview with The Washington Post, Trump said: “He should have never picked a Special Counsel.”
But in his speech to several hundred U.S. attorneys, chiefs of police and local prosecutors at the Project Safe Neighborhoods National Conference, Rosenstein praised his Oval Office detractor as a champion of law enforcement.
“There is no stronger supporter of law enforcement in the United States,” Rosenstein said of Trump.