President Trump’s announcement last week that he will nominate veteran prosecutor Robert K. Hur as the next U.S. attorney for the state of Maryland ought to reassure those who feared the White House might try to install some radical ideologue or partisan political hack to fill the vacancy left by Rod Rosenstein, who led the office from 2005 until his elevation this year to the No. 2 post at the U.S. Department of Justice. Mr. Hur is by all accounts a brilliant and accomplished jurist and a principled public servant whose record suggests he will continue the tradition of bipartisan cooperation and consultation with local officials that made the Rosenstein tenure such a success. The fact that he was immediately endorsed by both of Maryland’s Democratic senators is a good sign in that regard. If confirmed by the Senate Mr. Hur will find himself with some big shoes to fill but also some pitfalls to avoid.
The appointment of Mr. Hur, who is currently serving as a principal deputy attorney general under Mr. Rosenstein in Washington, represents much needed continuity in what has been a very fruitful relationship between the U.S. attorney’s office, the city state’s attorney’s office, the office of the Baltimore City police commissioner and state law enforcement officials. The strength of those ties remained largely unchanged regardless of which party happened to be in power at any given time locally or nationally. Mr. Rosenstein, a Republican appointed to the Maryland post by President George W. Bush, managed to maintain good relations with both Democratic and GOP governors in Annapolis, a trio of Democratic mayors at City Hall and a like number of local state’s attorneys and city police chiefs over more than a decade of painstaking investigations and criminal prosecutions that ended with scores of corrupt officials, gang members, drug kingpins and other violent offenders behind bars. Few of those apprehended would ever have been brought to justice without the hard work of hundreds of dedicated city, county and state law enforcement personnel who coordinated their efforts with the U.S. attorney’s office.
Yet just as we hope Mr. Hur will extend that tradition, we also caution him to beware becoming entangled in the egregious politicization of law enforcement and systematic lying of the president who appointed him. In a sense we are amazed that Mr. Trump picked Mr. Hur after clashing so publicly with Mr. Rosenstein over his appointment of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller to look into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. The president, who had enlisted Mr. Rosenstein to draft a memo justifying the White House decision to fire former FBI director James Comey, reportedly became furious at Mr. Rosenstein for failing to quash the investigation into Russian interference altogether after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the case, and for making the decision to name a special counsel. We’re frankly amazed that Mr. Trump, who prizes loyalty above all other virtues in those around him, would appoint anyone as closely associated with Mr. Rosenstein as Mr. Hur is. Perhaps we are benefiting from Mr. Trump’s habitual ignorance of the details of governance, or perhaps we can thank the deft political skills of Mr. Rosenstein. Either way, Maryland appears fortunate to have landed a new top federal prosecutor lauded not just for his stellar resume but also for the humanity he brings to the job.
We expect Mr. Hur will bring to the office the same competence and rectitude Mr. Rosenstein himself exhibited over so many years and to the benefit of so many Marylanders. The pitfalls of engaging the Trump administration too closely should be all too clear to Mr. Hur after witnessing the dilemmas of conscience forced on Mr. Rosenstein in recent months. We trust he will seek to steer clear of those shoals and, if confirmed, we wish him well in his new job.
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