Here's why Trump's pick for Deputy Attorney General could be even more dangerous than William Barr
Last week, the Senate confirmed William Barr as President Donald Trump's new attorney general. The appointment is cause for worry because, in addition to being as retrograde on criminal justice reform as Jeff Sessions was, Barr is a tried-and-true Republican loyalist — as Attorney General for George H.W. Bush, he supported pardoning key actors in the Iran-Contra scandal, and has shown hostility to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of the Trump campaign's contacts with Russia.
Less attention has been devoted to Jeffrey Rosen, the Transportation Department official that Trump is tapping to replace Rod Rosenstein as Deputy Attorney General. But in fact, this is arguably an even more worrying development than Barr's appointment.
As former financial crimes senior adviser Julie Zebrak explained on Twitter, the Deputy Attorney General position is immensely important for the nuts-and-bolts operation of the Justice Department — and unlike Barr, who has actually been Attorney General before, Rosen has no experience in the department whatsoever:
Much being noted that DAG nominee Jeffrey Rosen lacks prior DOJ experience. Why this matters: DAG is the hardest jo… https://t.co/0IaKGcMbiL— @JulieZebrak 🥁💛 (@@JulieZebrak 🥁💛)1550632447.0
ATF, USMS, BOP, all 93 U.S. Attorney’s offices, the immigration judges, etc. The head of the Criminal Division, the… https://t.co/SkN2irvObP— @JulieZebrak 🥁💛 (@@JulieZebrak 🥁💛)1550632730.0
Rosen, will lack any experience over the subject matter for which they are seeking his approval, guidance, etc. Thi… https://t.co/WlC0LbkmhT— @JulieZebrak 🥁💛 (@@JulieZebrak 🥁💛)1550632922.0
Discovery, etc. Even in less raw times, a newbie to DOJ and someone without Criminal or prosecution experience woul… https://t.co/iXgYKEPsyP— @JulieZebrak 🥁💛 (@@JulieZebrak 🥁💛)1550633098.0
Tell you because I don’t know if he’s good, bad, brilliant, or stupid. But I can tell you that his job, in any era,… https://t.co/yLb2nVdgVx— @JulieZebrak 🥁💛 (@@JulieZebrak 🥁💛)1550633287.0
Will spend most of his days in meetings at DOJ, FBI, and the White House on the most sensitive Criminal and nationa… https://t.co/J5BQdhB8VI— @JulieZebrak 🥁💛 (@@JulieZebrak 🥁💛)1550633443.0
Report to him, such as the head of CRM or NSD or the FBI or DEA or ATF. Without his own independent experience on t… https://t.co/wQyuvkqBd5— @JulieZebrak 🥁💛 (@@JulieZebrak 🥁💛)1550633641.0
Decisions. Again, this is not unprecedented but it puts Rosen and DOJ in a bind before he even walks in the door, a… https://t.co/qEannJOFwi— @JulieZebrak 🥁💛 (@@JulieZebrak 🥁💛)1550633765.0
When you can’t pull from your own experience, gut, or judgment on topics of national or international significance.… https://t.co/7aIqrECz5E— @JulieZebrak 🥁💛 (@@JulieZebrak 🥁💛)1550633966.0
In & of itself becomes another insult to & assault of the institution of DOJ as well as ... you guessed it ... the… https://t.co/O9jNXiVxp6— @JulieZebrak 🥁💛 (@@JulieZebrak 🥁💛)1550634232.0
It is entirely possible, of course, that for Trump, lack of experience and intuition for how the Justice Department works could be a feature rather than a bug. Trump has often been frustrated by the fact that even raging partisans like Jeff Sessions understood enough about their job to protect the independence of federal investigations — and bringing in someone with no experience at the Justice Department could help him break its institutional norms and give marching orders to federal law enforcement.
If so, Rosen's appointment could be a more dangerous development than anything we have seen so far.