Biography of Rod Rosenstein, Deputy U.S. Attorney General

Prosecutor Served 3 Presidents, Respected by Republicans and Democrats

Rod Rosenstein
Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is pictured here in 2018.

 Alex Wong/Getty Images

Rod Rosenstein (born Rod Jay Rosenstein on January 13, 1965) is an American attorney and former criminal prosecutor who investigated tax fraud and public corruption before being tapped by Republican President George W. Bush to serve in the Department of Justice as a U.S. attorney in Maryland. Rosenstein enjoyed support and respect from Republicans and Democrats alike and served as the second in command at the Department of Justice under Bush's two successors in the White House, Barack Obama and Donald J. Trump. Rosenstein's political legacy, though, will very likely center on his controversial move to appoint Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III to investigate Russia's attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Fast Facts: Rod Rosenstein

  • Full Name: Rod Jay Rosenstein
  • Known For: Deputy U.S. attorney general who appointed and oversaw special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election
  • Born: Jan. 13, 1965, in Lower Moreland, near Philadelphia
  • Parents' Names: Robert and Gerri Rosenstein
  • Spouse's Name: Lisa Barsoomian
  • Children's Names: Julia and Allison
  • Education: Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, 1986 (B.S. in economics); Harvard Law School, 1989 (J.D.)
  • Key Accomplishments: Winning respect from Republicans and Democrats alike in Washington as he became the longest-serving U.S. attorney in the country during the administration of President Donald Trump

Early Years

Rod Rosenstein was born and raised in Lower Moreland, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia, where his father operated a small business and his mother served on a local school board. It was there, he said at his confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate, that he learned "straightforward values."

"Work hard. Play by the rules. Question assumptions, but treat everyone with respect. Read widely, write coherently and speak thoughtfully. Expect nothing, and be grateful for everything. Remain gracious in times of defeat, and humble in moments of victory. And try to leave things better than you found them."

Rosenstein attended public schools and graduated from Lower Moreland High School in 1982. He then entered the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied public policy, management, and economics. His interest in government led him to Harvard Law School after graduation. Rosenstein served as an intern for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts, a position that had a lasting impact on his career as a public servant.

Career in Law

Rosenstein's long career as a government attorney began in 1990, when he first joined the Department of Justice as a trial attorney with the Public Integrity Section of the Criminal Division. From there, he launched into decades of prosecuting drug dealers, white-collar criminals and public corruption. As the U.S. attorney for Maryland, Rosenstein pressed for longer sentences for felons and battled inner-city gangs.

Among Rosenstein's most high-profile cases were prosecutions of:

  • Baltimore's elite Gun Trace Task Force, whose mission was to get guns off the streets and violent criminals behind bars; eight of its nine members were alleged in 2017 to have abused their power by shaking city residents down for cash, drugs and jewelry. Some members of the squad confessed to robbing residents, planting drugs on innocent people and reselling the substances to others.
  • A Baltimore man who shot and killed a 3-year-old toddler who was playing on her front porch in Baltimore in 2014; the case remained unsolved for about three years when Rosenstein in 2017 accused a 28-year-old gang member of firing the gun at a member of a rival faction. "These cases do not solve themselves. They get solved because of extraordinary work by honorable, decent, diligent law enforcement officers," Rosenstein said at the time.
  • Dozens of people in prison-corruption scandals at the Eastern Correctional Institution in Westover; employees there were accused of smuggling drugs, cigarettes, cellphones and pornographic movies into the facility and selling them.

Rosenstein also:

Legal observers describe him as a tough, law-and-order prosecutor who is also fair-minded and nonpartisan.

Here's a look at the various positions Rosenstein held prior to his time as deputy to Attorney General Sessions.

  • 1993-94: Counsel to the deputy attorney general;
  • 1994-95: Special assistant to the Criminal Division’s assistant attorney general;
  • 1995-97: Associate independent counsel under Ken Starr, whose office investigated Bill and Hillary Clinton's business and real-estate dealings in Arkansas.
  • 1997-2001: Assistant U.S. Attorney in Maryland.
  • 2001-05: Principal deputy assistant attorney general for the Tax Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, supervising criminal sections and coordinating tax enforcement activities of the Tax Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Offices and the Internal Revenue Service.
  • 2005-17: U.S. Attorney in Maryland, overseeing federal criminal and civil litigation.
  • 2017-Current: Deputy U.S. attorney general following President Donald J. Trump's nomination on Jan. 31, 2017, and Senate confirmation on April 25, 2017.

Personal Life

Rosenstein and his wife, Lisa Barsoomian, live in Maryland and have two children, Allison Liza and Julia Paige. Barsoomian worked as a government prosecutor and, later, as a lawyer for the National Institutes of Health.

Important Quotes

  • "It is important to separate the role of politics in setting priorities and the decision to prosecute cases. And in the Justice Department that is what we do on a daily basis, that is how are trained." — Speaking to an ABC affiliate about his role as deputy attorney general.
  • “The oath of office is an obligation. It requires me to support and defend the Constitution of the United States; to bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution; and to well and faithfully discharge the duties of my office. I have taken that oath several times, and I have administered it many times. I know it by heart. I understand what it means, and I intend to follow it.” — Speaking at his confirmation hearing in 2017.

Role in Trump Russia Investigation

Rosenstein was a relatively unknown political figure outside of Maryland, even after being tapped as deputy attorney general and assuming oversight of Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 elections. Rosenstein drew Trump's ire after appointing the special counsel, but threw his career into jeopardy by suggesting to colleagues he secretly record Trump in the White House to "expose the chaos consuming the administration." Rosenstein also was said to have discussed recruiting cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment, which allows for the forceful removal of a president outside of the constitutional impeachment process. Rosenstein denied the reports.

While Rosenstein held onto his job after that controversy, Trump passed him over for a promotion in late 2018 when Session was fired as attorney general. Rosenstein had been the heir apparent to the position because of the terms of the federal Attorney General Succession Act, which gives the deputy attorney general authority when the top position becomes vacant.

Sources