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DOJ officials may have been ‘shell-shocked’ amid rumors of Rosenstein resignation

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rod rosenstein
United
States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein,
left, with Maj. David Engel of the Baltimore City Police
Department, appear at a news conference Friday, Sept. 29, 2006,
in Baltimore. Arms brokers for Tamil Tiger separatists and other
customers in Indonesia have been charged with trying to buy
surface-to-air missiles and other weapons through undercover
agents in Maryland, federal officials said
Friday.


Steve
Ruark/AP



  • The public was confused following conflicting reports about
    whether deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein would resign, and
    officials on the inside may have been just as much in the dark.
  • “DOJ officials have been shell-shocked by the public back and
    forth critique of Rosenstein,” said a former federal prosecutor
    who said he’s been briefed on the department’s internal mood by
    high-level contacts.
  • “Today, they were wandering the halls wondering what’s next,”
    he added.
  • A current FBI agent said the mood was similar within the
    bureau.
  • “Many were on high-alert this morning,” this person said.

The public was confused for much of Monday morning following
conflicting reports about whether deputy attorney general Rod
Rosenstein was about to resign from his position.

And officials on the inside may have been just as much in the
dark as observers on the outside.

“DOJ officials have been shell-shocked by the back and forth
public critique of Rosenstein,” said Jeffrey Cramer, a 12-year
DOJ veteran who says he’s been briefed on the internal mood at
the department by multiple high-level contacts. “Today, they were
wandering the halls wondering what’s next, because you need an
operational [deputy attorney general].”

Rosenstein did not ultimately resign, nor was he fired on Monday
morning.

The news website Axios first reported on Rosenstein’s possible
resignation, saying he had “verbally resigned” to White House
chief of staff John Kelly. Rosenstein’s reported move came after
The New York Times published a
controversial report last week saying the deputy attorney general
discussed wearing a wire around President Donald Trump and
invoking the 25th amendment to remove Trump from office.

Rosenstein vehemently denied the allegations, and subsequent
media reports also called into question some of the details in
the original Times story.

White House officials told The
Washington Post
 that Rosenstein offered to
resign in the wake of The Times story.

But DOJ officials told The
Post
 that while Rosenstein went to the
White House on Monday expecting to be fired, he did not offer to
resign, despite reportedly weighing the option over the weekend
following The Times’ report.

White House Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said
Rosenstein had an “extended conversation” with the president
about the news on Monday and that the two would meet again on
Thursday.

People at the FBI were on tenterhooks Monday morning, according
to one current FBI agent.

There was “no doubt that rank and file would be angry if Rod
Rosenstein stepped down or got fired because of that NYT report,”
this person said.

“Many were on high-alert this morning,” they added.

Axios reported on Monday evening
that after it published its initial story floating Rosenstein’s
resignation, the DOJ drafted a statement announcing his exit,
written “in the voice” of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

After commending Rosenstein for his long career as a public
servant, the draft statement reportedly went on to say Matt
Whitaker, Sessions’ chief of staff, would serve as deputy
attorney general, and that Noel Francisco, the solicitor general,
would become acting attorney general overseeing the Russia
investigation and the special counsel Robert Mueller. 

“People who are very high up at the DOJ have understandably all
been reticent because they’re all just looking over their
shoulders,” Cramer said.

“Especially now, because as of this morning you had an [attorney
general] who was impotent, you had a possibly non-existent
[deputy attorney general], and the solicitor general possibly
taking over,” he added. “The hierarchy of the DOJ was all out of
whack, as far as anyone there knew, because the [attorney
general] doesn’t run things, it’s the [deputy attorney general]
who’s operational. He’s the COO.”

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