Rosenstein’s departure, combined with the potential confirmation of President Donald Trump’s attorney general nominee Bill Barr, throws the future of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation into question.
Remember: It was Rosenstein who appointed Mueller as special counsel back in May 2017, and he oversaw the probe for many months. Mueller had to run major investigative decisions past him.
But Trump privately mused about firing Rosenstein (and other Justice Department officials) for a while, and back in November he finally made some moves — giving Jeff Sessions the boot and replacing him with Matthew Whitaker, who has described Mueller’s investigation as a “witch hunt.”
If Barr (who has also expressed deep suspicion of the probe) is confirmed, another Trump loyalist will join the team. Rosenstein’s apparently voluntary exit suggests he believes the investigation will be safe under his successor, but as of now, that’s unclear.