SCHOOL DELAYS

Maryland leaders hope state's long-serving U.S. attorney will survive Trump transition

Longest serving U.S. Attorney — Maryland's Rosenstein — has support of state leaders

Law enforcement officials and elected leaders in Maryland are expressing bipartisan hope — and confidence — that U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein will continue in his role as the state's top federal prosecutor under President-elect Donald J. Trump.

Rosenstein — currently the nation's longest-serving U.S. attorney — was appointed by Republican President George W. Bush in 2005 and remained on the job under Democratic President Barack Obama, in part on the strength of his reputation as a serious professional and "straight shooter."

That reputation has survived the last eight years, officials said, and should serve him again as Trump's transition team reviews political appointments.

"He has the confidence of Democrats and Republicans," said Sen. Ben Cardin, a Democrat. "He's earned the confidence, the trust, of the leaders of local government, of law enforcement, those in the legal community. So he's well respected."

Rosenstein declined to comment on his future.

If he does stick around, officials said, it will benefit the fight against crime in Maryland and in Baltimore — where Rosenstein has developed a reputation for going after violent criminal gangs such as the Black Guerrilla Family and rooting out corruption in state correctional facilities.

Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis has known Rosenstein since Davis was a police officer in Prince George's County. Rosenstein secured a corruption conviction against Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson in 2011.

"I'm hopeful that Rod will remain in Baltimore, remain in Maryland," Davis said. "He's always been a supporter of local law enforcement. He understands the needs of local law enforcement."

Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby called Rosenstein "an effective prosecutor."

"I'm appreciative of the strong partnership that my office and the United States attorney's office has played in the apprehension and conviction of some of our most violent criminals," she said. "The necessity for continuity in our fight against crime in Baltimore City is critical for the future of public safety, and I hope to continue this partnership with Rod at the helm."

Trump and his advisers have begun the process of naming some 4,000 political appointees to staff his administration.

Heavy turnover is assumed in the highest levels of the Department of Justice. Trump has chosen Sen. Jeff Sessions, a conservative former federal prosecutor from Alabama, as attorney general, a pick seen as signaling a sharp shift in policy direction in an agency that has aggressively pursued civil rights violations and criminal justice reform under Obama.

It generally takes time for a new administration to replace U.S. attorneys, and many top prosecutors have retained their posts through changes in the White House.

"I can't speak to what President-elect Trump is looking for in a U.S. attorney," said Sen.-elect Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat. "But Mr. Rosenstein has served Baltimore and Maryland well under both Democratic and Republican presidents."

Rosenstein, 51, a Harvard-trained lawyer who lives in Bethesda, rose quickly in the Justice Department. He started in 1990 as a trial attorney with the public integrity section of the criminal division under President George H.W. Bush. He served as counsel to the deputy attorney general, an associate independent counsel and an assistant U.S. attorney under President Bill Clinton, and principal deputy assistant attorney general for the tax division under President George W. Bush.

The Senate voted unanimously in 2005 to confirm his nomination as U.S. attorney for Maryland.

In 2006, he was vetted for a vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond, Va., before the appointment stalled. Then-Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Paul S. Sarbanes, both Democrats, whose endorsement would have helped him, said at the time that he lacked the experience for the job — but Mikulski offered a different kind of support.

"Rod Rosenstein is doing a good job as the U.S. attorney in Maryland," she said, "and that's where we need him."

Mikulski's office did not respond to a request for comment for this article.

Rosenstein has often appeared before banks of cameras, and thus before Maryland's residents, to announce large indictments — including those in 2013 against Black Guerrilla Family gang members, inmates and corrections officers who orchestrated a massive contraband smuggling scheme inside the Baltimore City Detention Center.

Rosenstein was at it again last month, announcing the indictment of 80 inmates, correctional officers and others allegedly involved in a criminal conspiracy to sneak drugs and other contraband into the Eastern Correctional Institution in Westover.

Stephen T. Moyer, secretary of the state corrections department, called Rosenstein "a man of impeccable integrity and one of the most respected law enforcement officials in Maryland."

A spokesman for Republican Gov. Larry Hogan said the governor and his administration "have had a very strong and productive working relationship" with Rosenstein.

Hogan "greatly respects him and the work he does," spokesman Douglass Mayer said.

Cardin praised Rosenstein for placing a "high priority on gangs, which is something we wanted him to do." He called Rosenstein "a good person" who operates at "the highest professional level."

Davis said Rosenstein has given him support since the civil unrest and the surge in homicides in Baltimore last year.

Davis said Rosenstein has helped him prosecute "trigger pullers" in the city and secure longer federal prison terms for repeat offenders.

"In those moments over the last 18 months that have been the very, very toughest, I was always in routine contact with Rod, and he's always been really responsive," Davis said.

Unlike some federal prosecutors, Davis said, Rosenstein understands "the urgency that local police departments face when it comes to crime trends and patterns and the need to quickly bring people to justice" — and the city has benefited.

Cardin said keeping Rosenstein in his position "would certainly be a sign of stability" for the many strong relationships he has built over the years with local elected leaders, police and other law enforcement officials.

"Rod is a known quantity," Cardin said, "and very well liked."

Baltimore Sun reporter Jessica Anderson contributed to this article.

krector@baltsun.com

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