Current and former colleagues recounted the arrows Mr. Rosenstein has taken during his two years on the job, which coincided with special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who recused himself from the probe, forcing Mr. Rosenstein to take charge, said the department’s No. 2 official fulfilled his duty to the country.
“It was no little matter,” Mr. Sessions said of the probe. “There was a continual uproar. Decisions had to be made and those decisions fell to him and him alone. He became the attorney general for this matter. He made every decision based on what he thought was best for this country. He stayed the course during some of the most difficult times during the history of the department.”
Mr. Rosenstein took arrows from the president and his allies, who accused him of overseeing a partisan witch hunt aimed at undermining the Trump administration.
He didn’t help himself by discussing — in what he says was a joke — whether to invoke the 25th Amendment to declare the president unsuitable for office.
Mr. Barr joked about the social media frenzy surrounding the press conference he and Mr. Rosenstein held to announce the release of the special counsel’s report last month, where the deputy was stone-faced behind Mr. Barr.
“Which one of us is capable of the most deadpan expression?” Mr. Barr said Thursday, calling Mr. Rosenstein up to his side.
“I do my best work in congressional hearings and Rod does his best work standing behind me at press conferences,” the attorney general quipped.
Mr. Rosenstein said he felt the oath of office pledging loyalty to the Constitution overrode “loyalty to anyone else.”
“Seeking the truth requires an open mind,” he said. “There are many people in this room who stood with me on the ramparts of justice.”
Though some Democrats are happy to see Mr. Rosenstein go, they are showing deep antagonism toward Mr. Rosen, who cleared the Judiciary Committee and now heads to the Senate floor for a final confirmation vote.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Judiciary Committee’s top Democrat, said Mr. Rosen was never a prosecutor nor has he been in the Justice Department — both problems for someone who joins at a time when the department is in the midst of a tough battle with congressional Democrats over demands for the special counsel’s full report.
“I think he is exceedingly well-qualified,” Mr. Graham said.
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