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US Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is stepping down

This follows more than two turbulent years as the second highest-ranking official in the Department of Justice.

US Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein
US Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein
Image: Michael Brochstein via PA Images

US DEPUTY ATTORNEY General Rod Rosenstein has announced he is stepping down.

It was Rosenstein who chose Special Counsel Robert Mueller to lead the Russia interference probe.

In a letter to US President Donald Trump, Rosenstein (54) said he would leave on 11 May.

This follows more than two turbulent years as the second highest-ranking official in the Department of Justice.

In May 2017, Rosenstein named an independent lawyer to take on the Russia probe after Trump fired FBI director James Comey.

Then-attorney general Jeff Sessions had already recused himself from overseeing the investigation, leaving Rosenstein in charge.

That made Rosenstein effectively the one buffer between Mueller and the White House.

This was a position that became even more crucial when the investigation began examining whether Trump himself had obstructed justice by firing Comey and then trying to have Mueller ousted.

In his final report released on 18 April, Mueller concluded that no one on Trump’s campaign conspired to collude with Russians.

However, he reached no conclusion on obstruction, detailing the evidence he had accumulated and leaving it to Congress to act.

Ahead of the release of the report, Rosenstein stood silently next to Attorney General Bill Barr as Barr asserted that there was not enough evidence in Mueller’s report to charge Trump with obstruction – a claim that many lawyers said was false.

Rosenstein had made clear last year that he would step down after Mueller’s report was released.

He had reportedly drafted his resignation, but stayed on after a meeting with Trump, saying he would see the Mueller investigation through.

Served both Republicans and Democrats

Born in Philadelphia in 1965, Rosenstein studied economics at Trump’s alma mater, Wharton University, before attending Harvard Law School.

He joined the Justice Department in 1990 and participated in the independent counsel investigation into Bill Clinton, which eventually morphed into the sex scandal that saw Clinton impeached in Congress.

He was appointed US Attorney for Maryland by president George W Bush in 2005 and enhanced his reputation with the corruption conviction of a senior state official.

He was one of only three Bush-era federal district attorneys to be kept on by the Obama administration in 2009.

Includes reporting by - © AFP 2019

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