Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen is resigning Wednesday at noon, ending a tenure marked by the things that didn’t happen, including no special counsels appointed despite pressure from the White House.
In his nearly month-long tenure as acting attorney general, Rosen withstood pressure from President Donald Trump, who personally and through White House officials had pushed repeatedly for the Justice Department to appoint a special counsels to investigate matters the President wanted, a person briefed on the matter said.
CNN has reported that Trump wanted the Justice Department to appoint a special counsel to look into his false allegations of vote fraud. Trump has also discussed having the department appoint a special counsel to investigate Hunter Biden, son of incoming President Joe Biden.
The Justice Department said no special counsels have been appointed in the past month.
Rosen’s departure makes way for an unusual arrangement to start the Biden administration.
Later Wednesday, Monty Wilkinson, a career Justice Department lawyer and former Eric Holder deputy chief of staff, is expected to be acting attorney general until Biden’s nominee Merrick Garland is confirmed, people briefed in the matter said. Wilkinson is deputy assistant attorney general for human resources and administration.
And for a few hours until Biden signs an executive order appointing Wilkinson, John Demers, assistant attorney general for the National Security Division, will serve as acting attorney general.
With Rosen leaving, Demers would normally be the acting attorney general. But Biden is relying on a Trump-era legal opinion that installed Matt Whitaker as acting attorney general after Trump fired Jeff Sessions. Democrats questioned the legality of that appointment, but now Biden is using that precedent to appoint Wilkinson as acting attorney general.
Demers will stay on for a time under Biden at the Justice Department regardless. Under US law, a Senate-confirmed official must serve as attorney general at all times to handle sensitive national security matters. Demers will be the top official to approve FISA orders.
Rosen is a former white collar and corporate lawyer who kept a relatively low profile while William Barr took the spotlight as a fierce defender of Trump, before finally exposing the lie of Trump’s vote fraud claims.
After Barr’s departure, critics feared Rosen would given in to White House pressure. But despite requests from Trump personally as well as other White House officials, Rosen refused.
Rosen has also spoken out about the attack on the US Capitol and has helped to oversee the federal law enforcement response to secure the inauguration.