Dear Rod Rosenstein,
It's been a few years since I covered federal courts as a reporter, and we were never exactly close; you were very responsive and professional, of course, but unlike some of your Maryland U.S. attorney predecessors (say, Thomas M. "Get me three front-page indictments by Election Day!" DiBiagio), you tended to keep media at arm's length. Still, I feel I can reach out to you with a personal suggestion, now that it's no longer just a rumor that you're the White House pick for U.S. deputy attorney general:
Don't take the job.
While there's more work to be done here in Maryland, and Baltimore in particular with our spiking homicide rate and rampant gang activity, this plea is not coming from a selfish place. Go ahead and leave your post if you want, but go into private practice and make some money for a change, instead. You've been a public servant for 28 years now, a dozen of them in this job — you're the longest-serving U.S. attorney ever, congrats! — so no one would balk if you sold your soul to that particular devil. Selling it to Donald Trump, however, is a step too far.
Granted, it's a pretty heady offer. You would be No. 2 in the U.S. Department of Justice, supervising day-to-day operations and adding your two cents about departmental policies and programs. But that's generally not a stepping stone to the top spot; in fact, a look at the past 30 years of deputy AGs shows that most go into private practice afterward, anyway, or they join a corporation or school faculty.
And at its core, in this administration, the job would be carrying water for a chain of outsiders who appear to care little about keeping the country's reputation — or indeed the country — intact. Do you really want to link your legacy with theirs?
Sen. Jeff Sessions, who's likely to be confirmed as attorney general next week and become your immediate boss, was denied a federal judgeship amid charges of racism. He's anti-immigrant and anti-gay, and he has long perpetuated the false notion of mass voter fraud in America. In fact, it will likely fall to him — i.e. you — to carry out President Trump's frivolous investigation into the mythical millions of undocumented immigrants who voted in November.
Ah, President Trump. Where to start? Most recently, he revealed that he doesn't know who Frederick Douglass is (fudging it by calling the great abolitionist and former slave who died in 1895 someone "who's done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more") and doesn't care whether Australia remains an ally (he cut short by 35 minutes a call with the country's prime minister after haranguing the man over a refugee policy). He also forced the White House to deny that it was planning to invade Mexico after reportedly saying he would send U.S. troops there to deal with the "bad hombres."
And then there's his puppet master: Steve Bannon, the alt-right icon who's helping sow chaos by isolating President Trump from advisers and inserting himself in security roles usually reserved for generals. Mr. Bannon makes no bones about his intentions: "I want to bring everything crashing down and destroy all of today's establishment," he reportedly told a writer for The Daily Beast.
You might think that you can somehow keep your principles and common sense as the deputy attorney general, but we saw how that turned out for Sally Yates. Despite being pressed in 2015 by Senator Sessions himself during her deputy AG confirmation hearing to "say no" to unlawful presidential directives, the minute she did as the acting AG, refusing to enforce President Trump's ludicrous immigration ban last week, the president canned her.
She, like you, enjoyed wide bipartisan support. And she still does: A statement signed this week by 70 former federal prosecutors, 50 of whom served in Republican administrations, backed her decision as the right one. But you can't be right and keep your job under President Trump. As his spokesman Sean Spicer has said: you either "get with the program or... go."
I know you were appointed by Republican President George W. Bush, and that you might privately harbor some negative feelings toward liberals given that Maryland's Democratic establishment once worked to shut down your confirmation as a 4th Circuit Court of Appeals judge. But you don't appear overtly political — and certainly not rabid. This isn't a good fit.
Perhaps some of your prosecutors have been overly aggressive through the years, crossing lines they shouldn't have. (Remember last September, when U.S. District Court Judge George L. Russell III dismissed a fraud case and accused prosecutors of lying and destroying evidence?) But in general, you're considered an honorable straight shooter who's certainly served Maryland well.
I understand if it's time to go, just don't go there. Say "no" to President Trump.