Departing Rosenstein: 'I Took More Than My Fair Share of Criticism'

By Susan Jones | February 22, 2019 | 7:23am EST
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein leaves a news conference at the Department of Justice on July 13, 2018. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

( - Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, soon to leave his job, told a gathering at the Wharton School on Thursday that he has taken more than his fair share of criticism during his time in the Trump Justice Department, "but I followed the rules."

He also criticized the media and said he has unplugged the television in his office.

"My time as a law enforcement official is coming to an end, a lot later than I expected," Rosenstein said at the end of his speech:

The truth is that everyone’s life is a product of random events and consequential decisions. The random events are things that happen to you, beyond your control. The consequential decisions are what you choose to do in response.

I hope many of you will choose to devote at least a few years to public service. If you do, remember that truth is not determined by opinion polls, and history is not written by television pundits. Ignore the mercenary critics and focus on the things that matter, because a republic that endures for centuries is not governed by the news cycle.

I am proud of what the Department of Justice accomplished on my watch in the Trump Administration. (Here he listed reductions in violent crime, curtailing opioid abuse, restoring immigration enforcement, among other accomplishments.)

In 1940, Attorney General Robert Jackson explained that government lawyers “must at times risk ourselves and our records to defend our legal processes from discredit, and to maintain a dispassionate, disinterested, and impartial enforcement of the law,” even if it requires us to incur criticism.

I took more than my fair share of criticism. But I kept the faith, I followed the rules, and I left my office in good hands. Those are the things that matter.

Rosenstein concluded with a quote from the movie character Rocky Balboa: "The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows...But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward; how much you can take, and keep moving forward… [Y]ou got to be willing to take the hits.”

Rosenstein said his daughter had those words inscribed on a plaque, which she gave to her father as a birthday gift: "So I know she got the point," he said. "I hope you get it, too."

Earlier in his speech, Rosenstein noted that when he was younger, "Reporters generally refrained from passing on gossip and innuendo."

Rosenstein -- the subject of much media speculation in recent weeks -- said he has unplugged the television in his Justice Department office: "I try not to worry too much about what a commentator may say in the next 30 minutes. Instead, our law enforcement team focuses on what it takes to keep America safe for the next 30 years and beyond."

Rosenstein is a central figure in what President Trump calls the "witch hunt," and  he has been a main feature of the news cycle in recent days, as former FBI Deputy Directory Andrew McCabe promotes his new book.

McCabe says Rosenstein was "absolutely" in agreement about opening a counter-intelligence investigation into President Donald Trump. In fact, Rosenstein is the one who appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel.

According to McCabe, in the days after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, Rosenstein "offered to wear a wire into the White House."

"He (Rosenstein) said, 'I never get searched when I go into the White House. I could easily wear a recording device. They wouldn't know it was there.' Now, he was not joking. He was absolutely serious. And, in fact, he brought it up in the next meeting we had," McCabe told CBS's "60 Minutes."

McCabe said he never took Rosenstein up on the offer, but he did discuss it with FBI lawyers.

McCabe also said Rosenstein raised the issue of possibly invoking the 25th Amendment to remove the president:

"I didn't have much to contribute, to be perfectly honest, in that conversation," McCabe said. "So I listened to what he had to say. But to be fair, it was an unbelievably stressful time. I can't even describe for you how many things must have been coursing through the deputy attorney general's mind at that point. So it was really something that he kind of threw out in a very frenzied, chaotic conversation about where we were and what we needed to do next."

McCabe said Rosenstein also talked about which Cabinet members might vote to remove the president.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has said he will subpoena both McCabe and Rosenstein to appear before his committee, "if that's what it takes" to get to the truth.

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