King & Spalding has landed former deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein to be a partner in the firm’s government investigations team, after a rocky tenure as the Justice Department’s second-in-command.
Rosenstein, perhaps best-known for appointing former FBI director Robert Mueller to investigate the ties between Russia and Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, will work in Washington.
Rosenstein’s tenure at the Justice Department won him praise and scorn at different times from both the political left and right, as he oversaw the Mueller probe, and later, in siding with Attorney General William Barr in deciding not to pursue obstruction charges against Trump.
King & Spalding was a logical fit, Rosenstein said in an interview with Bloomberg Law, given its deep and growing bench of former high-ranking Justice Department officials, including some he’d worked with. He added that he appreciates the firm’s culture and its emphasis on collegiality.
Despite his high profile, Rosenstein said that he declined using a legal industry headhunter after leaving the Justice Department in May. Nor was there any auction for his services to potentially boost his starting salary, he said, given that he knew where he wanted to practice law.
“I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time,” Rosenstein said.
Rosenstein started his new job—his first with a law firm after a career dominated by government service—this week.
He said that he’ll be open to the possibility of representing former colleagues at the Justice Department or elsewhere within the Trump administration, should opportunities present, in criminal, regulatory, or compliance-related matters.
Rosenstein noted such representations could work as long as they do not run afoul of pertinent prohibitions on former government attorneys. The main two restrictions, he said, will prohibit him from conducting any business with his former agency for one year, meaning, not until after May 11 of this year, and also, he’ll not be allowed to work on cases he worked on with the government by “flipping sides,” he said.
Rosenstein declined comment on much of his tenure with Justice Department, including his interactions with Trump. He did say, however, that he was pleased with the process Mueller used as special counsel, and the conclusions Mueller’s team reached.
“At the end of the day, the investigation was completed, and it reached the right result,” he said.
Rosenstein has an extensive background of service in high-ranking Justice Department posts. He was U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland from 2005-17 before Trump appointed him as the Justice Department’s second-ranking official under then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
King & Spalding over the past couple years has hired several notable former Justice Department officials, including former government colleagues of Rosenstein’s. In September, former FBI chief of staff Zack Harmon rejoined the firm, for example.
Also now with the firm are former deputy U.S. attorney general Sally Yates, former U.S. attorneys Zachary Fardon and John Horn, and former associate deputy attorney general Alicia O’Brien. Current FBI Director Christopher Wray is also a King & Spalding alum.
“Rod Rosenstein is an exceptional trial lawyer, strategist and leader with unquestioned integrity and toughness,” Robert D. Hays, Jr., chairman of King & Spalding, said in a statement. “His arrival underscores the firm’s longstanding commitment to effective advocacy on the most complex and highest stakes government-related matters. Our clients will benefit from the unique experience of Rod and other senior government officials working together as a team.”