As Barr’s departure approaches December 23, Rosen will lead the Justice Department for President Donald Trump’s final month in office, putting the former corporate lawyer in the midst of a possible political dust storm caused by a lame president who continues to refuses to give in. and has made it clear that he wants his opponents to be prosecuted or even imprisoned.
A deputy attorney general always takes a backseat in the place of the department’s top appointee, but Rosen’s public profile is even lower than usual. He has stayed in the spotlight largely from Barr’s most controversial moments, such as when the attorney general pushed career prosecutors aside in the criminal charges against Trump associates Michael Flynn and Roger Stone.
But Rosen has stepped up into major corporate disputes, including playing a pivotal role against opioid makers and the tech community.
According to a Justice Department official who knows him, Rosen doesn’t enjoy making the kinds of decisions that would put him at the center of political storms. And it is not yet known whether he will fall in line with Trump or push back on behalf of a department where political appointees are quietly leaving and career personnel preparing for the next administration.
“He’s not the type to make decisions,” the officer said. ‘Barr is all fire and anger. Rosen does things for the right reasons. ‘
“Rosen is quiet, but strong,” another source who knew him told CNN.
The Justice Department did not comment on the fact that Rosen would assume the position of acting Attorney General.
Barr’s early departure places Rosen, who had also served in Trump’s Transportation Department as deputy secretary and general adviser to agencies during the George W. Bush administration, in the unusual position of leading the department as acting civil servant for a final month of a presidency.
He could potentially remain in orbit until the election of President-elect Joe Biden’s Attorney General is confirmed, as has happened in previous administrative turnovers at the request of the incoming administrations.
Previous Senate-confirmed Attorneys General Loretta Lynch and Michael Mukasey remained in office until the last days of Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, respectively, before turning the division over to their deputies – who are now in Rosen’s position – For example, until The candidate of the next government could be confirmed.
A lawyer behind the scenes
Rosen’s considered approach stems from his decades in private practice handling complex litigation for businesses. At Justice, Barr treated Rosen more like his counsel, with the attorney general remaining involved in the most high-profile moments for the department rather than stepping aside so Rosen would make it on his own, a Justice Department official said.
“Barr has been on the podium the whole time. So we don’t know how much role Rosen played in so many of the most important decisions,” said Julie Rodin Zebrak, a Democratic political adviser who previously worked for the Justice Department for 20 years. and served as the deputy chief of a former deputy attorney general. “We don’t really know much about him.”
Rosen remains a bit of a mystery to even the attorneys who have worked out of the main Justice building, according to current and former department officials speaking with CNN.
Documents from the internal Justice Department, released by the Department in recent months under the Freedom of Information Act, give little indication of how involved Rosen has been involved behind the scenes in controversial cases. For example, he was kept informed of the fallout in the department regarding Stone’s conviction, but it is not clear how involved he was in Barr’s choice to override the prosecutors in the case.
Rosen’s lack of prosecution experience was a problem when he first took on the role of deputy, but he did lead key Justice Department actions, including the antitrust case against Google and the criminal plea deal with OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma .
According to two former Justice Department officials, the attempt to develop a case against Google, which is underway, was aimed at Rosen’s office. When the lawsuit was announced in October, Rosen told reporters that “there is nothing off the table” when it came to the consequences Google might face.
During his confirmation by the Senate to the Deputy Attorney General, Rosen pledged to push back against any improper influence he might encounter. Rosen was asked in writing by a senator how he would respond if the president asked him to do something that was illegal. Rosen first noted that he thought “this hypothetical scenario is unlikely,” then wrote, “If I were nevertheless ordered to do something illegal, I would rather resign than execute an illegal order.”
During his Senate confirmation hearing in April 2019, he said, “If the correct answer is to say no to someone, then I will say no.”
What Rosen may face in Trump’s final weeks
Rosen may face political pressures similar to Barr and Trump’s first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, as the president continues to push publicly for leniency for his supporters accused of crimes for voter fraud investigations that could cast doubt about the reality of the election and the implications for researchers who followed Russian interference in the 2016 US elections.
Barr’s departure follows an interview with The Associated Press that angered Trump, where Barr stated that the Justice Department had found no evidence of widespread voter fraud, and reports that the Attorney General had hushed the Hunter Biden investigation until after the election.
The issue of voter fraud reappeared Monday in Barr’s resignation letter, with the attorney general saying he had notified Trump that day of a Justice Department review of voter fraud “and how these allegations will be prosecuted.” The department has not provided more details on what that assessment may entail, and state and federal judges have repeatedly dismissed Trump’s claims as evidenceless that widespread voter fraud existed this year.
The president could also pressure the Justice Department to investigate Hunter Biden – the president-elect’s second son – and the results of now-Special Counsel John Durham, who was chosen by Barr to handle the early Russia investigation. by investigating the FBI. and has been used by Republicans to cast doubt on the findings about the Trump campaign’s susceptibility to Russian interference in 2016.
Republicans on Capitol Hill have already appealed to special counsel for Hunter Biden. The appointment of one would place the criminal investigation with a prosecutor specifically called in to conduct an investigation, making it half a step away and in some ways protecting it from the administration of the next president.
Federal prosecutors in Delaware are already working with IRS and FBI investigators to issue subpoenas and obtain interviews regarding Hunter Biden on tax-related matters and his business dealings with China, CNN reports.
“There will be all this pressure” on Rosen in the last days, a Justice Department official said.
This story has been updated to note that the Justice Department declined to comment.
CNN’s Christina Carrega contributed to this report.