CLOSE

A new report suggests Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein may be considering removing himself from the Russia investigation. Nathan Rousseau Smith (@fantasticmrnate) explains. Buzz60

LINKEDIN 11 COMMENTMORE

WASHINGTON – He didn't mention President Trump by name.

But Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's full-throated defense of the Justice Department Tuesday comes just days after Trump openly questioned the agency's rectitude in pursuing the prosecution of his former national security adviser Michael Flynn – while recommending last year not to bring charges against former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

"In this department, Justice is our name. And justice is our mission," Rosenstein said in prepared remarks at an awards ceremony for the department's Criminal Division. "Justice is not just about winning a particular case, or sending a particular person to prison. It is about a fair and impartial process."

The remarks were a clear counterweight to a flurry of Trump's tweets last weekend, in which the president raised the prospect that the criminal justice system was "rigged" and described the FBI's reputation as "in Tatters - worst in History!" 

Trump's missives came shortly after revelations Friday that Flynn was charged with lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Flynn agreed to plead guilty in exchange for his cooperation in the continuing inquiry led by Russia special counsel Robert Mueller.

Trump's strident criticism was immediately met with strong responses from former Justice officials, including former Attorneys General Eric Holder and Sally Yates who defended the Justice Department and the FBI.

Yet Rosenstein's message was particularly notable. He was the one to appoint Mueller in May to oversee the investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, had recused himself – after belatedly disclosing his own contacts with Kislyak. 

More: President Trump defends Michael Flynn for lying to FBI by claiming Hillary Clinton did the same thing

More: Trump's lawyers mount a new defense: A president can't obstruct justice. Is that true?

More: Trump tweet suggests he knew Flynn lied to FBI when he fired him

"Truth is about solid evidence, not strong opinions," Rosenstein said Tuesday. "Our job is always to find the truth and make the right choice. The right choice is not always the easy choice...Many times, people get criticized even when they do the right thing. That is the nature of our work."

A Justice spokeswoman said Tuesday that Rosenstein's remarks were not aimed at the president, adding that the deputy attorney general has used similar language at other events. 

Still, his message echoed sentiments expressed Monday by FBI Director Christopher Wray, who in a memo to bureau employees urged them to soldier on.

"We find ourselves under the microscope everyday and rightfully so," Wray wrote, also without mentioning Trump. 

"We are entrusted with protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution and laws of the U.S. Because of the importance of that mission, we also are entrusted with great power and we should expect, and welcome, people asking tough questions."

On Tuesday, Rosenstein acknowledged that the work was difficult, especially in the face of constant scrutiny.

"Promoting public confidence in our work is sometimes challenging, particularly in the modern era of nonstop, so-called breaking news," the deputy attorney general said.

"Talking heads and commentators are not constrained by the need to find credible eyewitnesses and determine the facts beyond a reasonable doubt before reaching a verdict."Sometimes critics are not constrained by the facts at all," Rosenstein said. "But we must remain focused on the things that matter."

More: House Intel chairman threatens FBI director, deputy AG with contempt of Congress

 

Autoplay
Show Thumbnails
Show Captions

 

LINKEDIN 11 COMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: https://usat.ly/2zQrE9z