Rod Rosenstein, the longtime United States Attorney for the District of Maryland, was sworn in Wednesday evening as Deputy Attorney General, giving Attorney General Jeff Sessions a right-hand man at DOJ.
The swearing in came after Rosenstein’s confirmation by a 94-6 vote of the full Senate Tuesday. Widely seen as a consensus choice, the now-Deputy AG has served in the Justice Department under both Democratic and Republican presidents as a career civil servant since the 1990s. For the last twelve years, he has been the head federal prosecutor for the State of Maryland. Appointed by President George W. Bush, his reputation for fairness and efficacy contributed to his being kept on by both Presidents Obama and Trump — unusual for U.S. Attorneys.
Sessions was reported to have played a significant role in the selection of Rosenstein by President Donald Trump for this important position. Speaking to a business group Monday, Sessions emphasized the centrality of the Deputy AG position to the effective functioning of the Justice Department and expressed his excitement at Rosenstein’s imminent arrival at DOJ. “That’s the central person in your team,” Sessions said, “Virtually all departments report to the deputy, who manages the department. It’s a powerful position.”
Rosenstein himself spoke to the local Fox affiliate in Baltimore on the afternoon of his swearing in. He acknowledged with dismay the striking rise in violent crime in Baltimore at the very end of his long tenure. “I’m very proud of the work we’ve done on violent crime, but I regret that we’ve lost a lot of ground in the last two years,” he said.
As the U.S. Attorney during the 2015 Freddie Gray riots, which immediately preceded the rise in crime, Rosenstein referred to the lawlessness as a “very bad memory.”
“In 2014, we were once again close to a record low for homicides,” he explained, “And then to see that unrest explode in April, to me was obviously a harbinger of problems to come.”
“What I think we need to do, is look at the conditions today verses the conditions when crime was low and figure out if there was anything we were doing then that we’re no longer doing,” Rosenstein told Fox Baltimore.
He explained that local law enforcement needed to be more “proactive.” Baltimore’s Police Department, like others around the country, has found itself subject to a consent decree mandating federal oversight. Many commentators have raised concerns that this close scrutiny of police conduct is discouraging aggressive policing and allowing crime rates to rise in a “Ferguson Effect.”
Rosenstein’s new boss, Attorney General Sessions, has expressed the same concerns, and has already issued a memo for his deputy to review all Obama-era DOJ actions on local policing.
Rosenstein announced the sentencing in a Baltimore drug and bank fraud conspiracy Tuesday, his last full day as a U.S. Attorney. The next evening he took his spot as the second most powerful man in federal law enforcement.
Trump and Sessions’s pick for the number three position at DOJ, Associate Attorney General, is George W. Bush’s Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Policy and George Mason University law professor Rachel Brand. She has been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and is the next Trump administration nominee slated for a vote of the full Senate after Labor Secretary-nominee Alexander Acosta. Acosta is scheduled to receive his vote Thursday morning, and Brand could be confirmed as soon as that afternoon.