National Security

Rosenstein quotes Mueller in commencement address

Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein quoted special counsel Robert Mueller in remarks at the University of Baltimore School of Law commencement on Monday, emphasizing the need to stand by one’s principles when under pressure.

“You need to be prepared to compromise when you can do so without violating your principles,” Rosenstein said during remarks Monday afternoon. “Of course, you will face pressure to compromise on things that matter most, perhaps even to trade virtue for the appearance of virtue. But you should exercise caution when circumstances tempt you to disregard principles.”

“As Robert Mueller once said, ‘There [may] come a time when you will be tested. You may find yourself standing alone, against those you thought were trusted colleagues. You may stand to lose [all that] you have worked for. And [it may] not be an easy call,’ ” Rosenstein continued.{mosads}

Rosenstein went on to advise the crowd of graduates that they would look back positively on difficult moments in which they stood their ground to defend their principles.

“Principles exist precisely for those moments. When you grow old and reflect on times you stood firmly for what was right although it was painful and costly, the most difficult occasions may rank among your finest moments,” Rosenstein said.

Monday’s address marked Rosenstein’s first public appearance as a private citizen since stepping down from his post in the Trump administration just 48 hours earlier. Rosenstein withstood intense public scrutiny throughout his 16-month tenure as deputy attorney general, first for his role in authoring a memo used to justify James Comey’s firing as FBI director and later for his appointment of Mueller as special counsel and oversight of the investigation into Russian interference.

Rosenstein quipped about the attention he attracted on Monday, sharing an anecdote in which he assured his daughter that deputy attorney general would be a “low-profile job.”

“Before I went to Washington in 2017, my daughter asked whether I would get my picture in the newspaper. I said no. I told her that deputy attorney general is a low-profile job. Nobody knows the deputy attorney general,” Rosenstein said Monday afternoon, prompting chuckles from the crowd.  “I was mistaken about that.”

“I knew when I started that deputy attorney general is usually a controversial job. It is one of those jobs where you frequently need to make decisions that leave someone aggrieved,” Rosenstein continued. “One of my predecessors gave me some wise advice. He said, “In this job, you will never be more popular than on your first day.’ He was right about that.”

Rosenstein, a former U.S. attorney in Maryland, was a little-known figure before President Trump tapped him as the No. 2 Justice Department official at the beginning of his administration. Rosenstein worked under Attorney General Jeff Sessions and, after Sessions resigned at Trump’s request, under Attorney General William Barr.

Rosenstein fell under fire from both Republicans and Democrats at various points during his time in the Trump administration.

An explosive report in The New York Times last September that Rosenstein suggested secretly taping Trump and recruiting other Cabinet members to invoke the 25th amendment to expel the president from office triggered massive speculation he would be fired. But Rosenstein, who fiercely criticized the Times’s account, managed to hang on.

It was long expected that Rosenstein, who tapped Mueller as special counsel in May 2017, would leave soon after the conclusion of Mueller’s investigation. Rosenstein submitted his resignation letter to Trump on April 29, less than two weeks after Barr released a redacted version of Mueller’s final report. 

Tags Donald Trump James Comey Jeff Sessions Robert Mueller Rod Rosenstein William Barr
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