US Deputy Attorney-General Rod Rosenstein has submitted his resignation, ending a two-year run defined by his appointment of a special counsel to investigate connections between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia. His last day will be May 11.
Mr Rosenstein’s departure had been expected following the confirmation of William Barr as US attorney-general in February.
In his resignation letter to Mr Trump, Mr Rosenstein paid tribute to the President, even praising his sense of humour, despite being the subject of some of Mr Trump’s most biting jabs. Mr Trump once retweeted an image that showed Mr Rosenstein and other officials jailed for treason.
Mr Rosenstein intended to leave in mid-March but stayed on for the completion of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
Mr Mueller last month submitted his report to the Justice Department, and Mr Rosenstein was part of a small group of department officials who reviewed the document and helped shape its public release.
After Mr Mueller failed to reach a conclusion about whether Mr Trump had obstructed the investigation, Mr Barr and Mr Rosenstein stepped in and determined the evidence wasn’t enough to support such an allegation.
Mr Rosenstein appointed Mr Mueller in May 2017, following the recusal of then-attorney-general Jeff Sessions, and oversaw much of his work.
His exit leaves the department without the official most closely aligned with the probe as officials grapple with public and congressional scrutiny of Mr Mueller’s findings and the department’s handling of the report.
He not only supervised Mr Mueller’s work for much of the past two years but also defended the investigation against attacks from congressional Republicans and Mr Trump, who has blasted the probe as a “witch hunt”.
As deputy, Mr Rosenstein was a central character in some of the most consequential, even chaotic, moments of the Trump administration. He wrote a memo criticising James Comey that the White House used as justification for the firing of the FBI director, then a week later appointed Mr Mueller to investigate the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
Mr Trump has nominated Deputy Transportation Secretary Jeffrey Rosen as Mr Rosenstein’s replacement.