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Rosenstein: You Know You're Following Rule of Law When You're 'Not Always Happy with the Outcome'

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein listens during a roundtable discussion on human trafficking in South Florida on Jan. 4, 2018, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told an audience in West Palm Beach today that “when you follow the rule of law, it does not mean that you will always be happy about the outcome,” and “you know for sure that you are following the rule of law when you are not always happy with the outcome.”

Rosenstein opened his address to the Forum Club of the Palm Beaches by remembering how, after his nomination, he told his daughter that his would be a “low-profile job — nobody knows the deputy attorney general.”

“Those were the days,” he quipped.

“President Harry Truman said that if you want a friend in Washington, you should get a dog. I am very lucky. I already have a dog. I have seen stories speculating that I may be sued, fired, or held in contempt. And that was just the last 24 hours. My father called me and asked, ‘Are you OK?’ And I said, ‘Yes, I had a great day today.’ Then he said, ‘Really?'”

Rosenstein stressed that “the stability provided by the rule of law is one of the primary reasons that our nation has thrived.”

He also argued against not treating those of different parties as enemies.

“Lincoln’s primary concern was about geography: the unity of the American states. But Lincoln also talked about another type of unity. He spoke about the unity of the American people,” the deputy attorney general said. “Lincoln’s words resonate today. Partisan differences are exacerbated by the media. Opposing parties are at war, figuratively. But in Lincoln’s time, people were literally at war. The differences of opinion then were deeper than any of ours today. Nonetheless, Lincoln insisted that his opponents not be treated as enemies, because they were all Americans.”

Rosenstein also emphasized how important it is “to avoid confirmation bias.”

“People who seek the truth must remain open to the possibility that it may not match their preconceptions. Fair-minded investigators must never reach a conclusion first and then ignore contradictory facts,” he said. “…Pursuing truth means always yielding to facts, even if they run contrary to our expectations.”

He quoted a “legendary person — Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben” in noting that “with great power comes great responsibility.”

“My point about our solemn responsibility is that the Department of Justice does not measure success solely by whether we acted with the right motive. Government officials who exercise discretion have a special obligation to make the right choice, based on articulable reasons. That requires experience, good judgment, and wisdom,” Rosenstein continued.

He later noted that “under Attorney General Sessions’s leadership, the executive branch respects the other branches of government and avoids encroaching upon their functions.”