Before he went to Washington to serve in the Trump administration, former Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein predicted he might not last very long.
In his February 2017 farewell remarks, Rosenstein told a meeting of Baltimore criminal justice leaders that he’d determined the median tenure for the country’s deputy attorney general was just 14 months.
“I don’t know how long I’ll be in this job in Washington,” he told them on Feb. 7, 2017, prompting laughter.
Rosenstein had been U.S. Attorney for Maryland for 12 years when he left his office in Baltimore to serve as the No. 2 to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Rosenstein’s tenure was uncertain Monday, with the White House saying President Trump would meet with him Thursday.
If he resigns or is fired this week, it would end a tumultuous period of service during which he attracted the ire of the president for overseeing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible Russian collusion in the 2016 presidential election.
Rosenstein’s possible departure comes after a report Friday that he had discussed the possibility of secretly recording the president and of invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump. Other reports said the comments were made in jest.
Rosenstein served as the top federal prosecutor in Maryland from 2005 to 2017. He was hailed for building strong partnerships with local law enforcement agencies and winning major cases against gang members, politicians, police and corrections officers.
Though Trump reportedly fumed that Rosenstein was a “Democrat from Baltimore,” Rosenstein is a Republican who was known in heavily Democratic Maryland as an apolitical operator. He was appointed by President George W. Bush and kept on by President Barack Obama.
Rosenstein’s legacy continues in the Maryland federal prosecutors’ office — his successor, Robert K. Hur, served as an assistant U.S. Attorney under Rosenstein for seven years and had followed him to the Justice Department last year to serve as one of his top aides. Hur took office as U.S. Attorney for Maryland in April.
“None of us like sending people to prison. Unfortunately, that's our job,” he said. “We have to find a way to reassure honest, law-abiding people — but we do need to deter the criminals causing problems in our communities.”
Pointing to a steady decrease in homicides and shootings in Baltimore during most of his tenure, Rosenstein said authorities in the city had driven down crime because they worked together, cut arrests and focused on violent repeat offenders.
“Obviously, something went dramatically wrong in 2015,” Rosenstein said.
In the weeks that followed, as he awaited confirmation from the Senate for his new post, Rosenstein announced major indictments against members of the Baltimore Police Department’s corrupt Gun Trace Task Force on racketeering charges, as well as a drug crew responsible for the long-unsolved killing of 3-year-old McKenzie Elliott.
Eight police officers were convicted in the gun task force case, which exposed a brazen unit committing robberies and regularly lying in court paperwork.
The drug case against a Waverly crew linked to McKenzie’s death is pending. Rosenstein took a picture of McKenzie with him to Washington.
“I know most people in this room didn't vote for the current president. It's quite possible nobody in this room voted for the current president,” Rosenstein told Baltiimore’s now defunct Criminal Justice Coordinating Council at the meeting last year. “To me, this is not a political issue. This is about saving lives and making communities safe.”