- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Sen. Richard Blumenthal feels betrayed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, for whom Democrats spent more than a year defending as the bulwark against an unruly president and the overseer of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Before releasing Mr. Mueller’s report, Mr. Rosenstein last month sided with Attorney General William P. Barr and concluded that the 22-month probe did not produce evidence of illegal acts by President Trump.

“His standing with William Barr as the attorney general spewed these misleading and distorted comments about the Mueller report certainly diminished, if not degraded his credibility,” Mr. Blumenthal, Connecticut Democrat, told The Washington Times on Tuesday.

Mr. Rosenstein submitted his resignation Monday, setting May 11 as the date for his long-anticipated departure.

Mr. Barr will testify Wednesday about the report and his decision-making before the Senate, and is slated to testify Thursday before the House — though both parties are sparring over the terms of that testimony.



Mr. Barr had asked Mr. Rosenstein to stick around long enough to help land the Mueller report, since it was Mr. Rosenstein who had shepherded it.

After then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the probe in 2017, Mr. Rosenstein concluded there was enough question about the president’s behavior — particularly after he fired FBI Director James B. Comey — to launch an independent investigation.

That made Mr. Rosenstein a prime target for GOP ire — and a hero to Democrats.

Mr. Blumenthal had said it would be a “break the glass moment” if the president tried to fire him.

Sen. Richard Durbin, Illinois Democrat, had said such action would create a “constitutional crisis.”

Now Mr. Durbin says he’s “not enamored” with the Justice Department’s second-in-command, adding that there’s no need to have Congress hear directly from Mr. Rosenstein.

“I can’t think of a reason to do it,” Mr. Durbin said.

But Mr. Blumenthal says he has questions.

“There is a vast variety of topics to address, including attempts by the White House to fire the special counsel and [Mr. Rosenstein‘s] impact on the investigation,” he said.

Other Democrats say they remain supportive of Mr. Rosenstein, including Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, who said he “has admired” the deputy attorney general’s handling of affairs.

Rep. Steve Cohen agreed that Mr. Rosenstein has managed to navigate a turbulent tenure at the Justice Department.

“I’ve got respect for Mr. Rosenstein,” the Tennessee Democrat told The Times. “I appreciate what he’s done.”

Mr. Whitehouse and Mr. Durbin both voted in 2017 to confirm Mr. Rosenstein as deputy attorney general, hoping he would balance Mr. Sessions.

But Mr. Blumenthal voted against him because Mr. Rosenstein would not publicly precommit to appointing a special counsel.

Once Mr. Mueller was named special counsel, Mr. Blumenthal became a fierce defender. But now that the findings are out, Mr. Blumenthal says his initial “no” vote on Mr. Rosenstein’s nomination was justified.

“He not only stood with Barr, but he explicitly endorsed Barr’s distorted and misleading version of the [Mueller] report and that undermined my confidence in him,” the senator said. “He has a mixed record and I’m not looking to validate my vote against him, but he certainly leaves the job with greatly diminished credibility.”

For his part Mr. Rosenstein has taken shots at Democratic critics on his way out the door.

As Mr. Barr faced jibes of a “whitewash” on Mr. Mueller’s conclusions, Mr. Rosenstein defended his new boss.

“He’s being as forthcoming as he can,” Mr. Rosenstein told The Wall Street Journal. “And so this notion that he’s trying to mislead people, I think is just completely bizarre.”

And he took a swipe last week at the Obama administration for being slow to react to allegations of Russian election interference and failing to “publicize the full story about Russian computer hackers and social media trolls.”

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