Rod Rosenstein, man who appointed Robert Mueller, ‘plans to leave’ Justice Department

Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, plans to leave the Justice Department shortly after a new attorney general is sworn into office, according to sources.

Mr Rosenstein has overseen special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, a role which has repeatedly drawn the ire of Donald Trump, who has labelled the probe a "witch hunt".

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Mr Rosenstein appointed Mr Mueller to the role of special counsel in May 2017 to investigate any collusion between Mr Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia after Jeff Sessions, the then attorney general, recused himself from the probe.

However Mr Rosenstein was stripped of the role late last year when Mr Sessions was forced out by the president. Matt Whitaker, the acting attorney general, is now tasked with overseeing the investigation but Mr Rosenstein’s office still manages its day-to-day business.

According to US media reports, Mr Rosenstein wants to ensure a smooth transition and is choosing to leave when he is satisfied the investigation is either complete or very close to completion.

The exact date of Mr Rosenstein’s departure is unknown, but it is expected to follow the confirmation of William Barr, the president’s nominee, as attorney general. 

Mr Barr is expected to appear before the Senate on January 15 for the start of his confirmation hearings, meaning the earliest a confirmation vote could take place is mid-February.

If confirmed, Mr Barr would then oversee the Russia investigation. Mr Barr has defended the president’s firing of FBI director James Comey and called the special counsel’s investigation "fatally misconceived". 

Mr Rosenstein appeared on the eve of leaving in September  when he faced embarrassing reports that he proposed wearing a wire when meeting the president at the height of the fallout over Mr Comey’s sacking. He said the comment was a joke. 

In November, speculation of his imminent departure rose again after Mr Trump re-tweeted a picture of his deputy attorney general behind bars.

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