Jeffrey Rosen has spent the first two years of the Trump presidency in a quiet corner of a tumultuous administration, serving as second-in-charge of a U.S. Transportation Department he first came to know in 2003 when he became the agency’s general counsel.
Rosen is now the Trump administration’s pick for U.S. deputy attorney general, a position that would elevate his national prominence and put him in the spotlight as part of the team overseeing the special counsel’s Russia investigation.
Formerly a longtime Kirkland & Ellis partner in Washington, Rosen would work closely with newly confirmed U.S. Attorney General William Barr, himself a former Kirkland counsel. Barr and Rosen overlapped at the firm, and Barr advocated for Rosen’s nomination to succeed Rod Rosenstein as the second-in-command at Main Justice.
“As an attorney, he has more than 35 years’ experience litigating complex matters in state and federal courts across the country, including as a partner at Kirkland & Ellis,” Barr said. He added: “His years of outstanding legal and management experience make him an excellent choice to succeed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who has served the Department of Justice over many years with dedication and distinction.”
Rosen’s rise puts new focus on the Kirkland & Ellis footprint within the Trump administration. Indeed, the firm’s presence in the administration rivals that of Jones Day, from which more than a dozen lawyers left to take posts across the Trump administration. “No one’s going to push Jeff around. He’ll be committed to doing his job,” Kirkland litigation partner Thomas Yannucci told Reuters.
Several former Kirkland partners hold leadership posts at Main Justice, including Brian Benczkowski, who heads the criminal division; Beth Ann Williams, in charge of the department’s office of legislative affairs; and Jeffrey Clark, at the helm of the environment and natural resources division.
Rosen’s nomination will head to the Senate Judiciary Committee in the coming days. In the meantime, here’s a snapshot of career highlights and other things to know:
>> Rosen once wrote a piece purporting to fact-check the Washington Post’s fact-checker. Writing at the conservative media site National Review Online, Rosen in 2011 took issue with a Washington Post report titled “John Boehner’s misfire on pending federal regulations.” The report focused on a statement from then-House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, that “the Executive Branch has 219 new rules in the works that will cost our economy at least $100 million.” According to the Post: “Boehner left the distinct impression that 219 new regulations were hanging like a Sword of Damocles over the U.S. economy. But it turns out the number of potential regulations is inflated, as well as the potential impact.” Rosen wrote: “Perhaps most important, the Post’s column seems to have missed the forest as well as the trees, in that there is no doubt that major regulations overall impose very significant costs on the economy.” The Post’s fact-checker columnist has played a prominent role in assessing and chronicling the many misstatements of President Trump. Rosen has written and spoken regularly on regulatory matters, raising questions about the reach of Obama-era administrative agencies.
>> Rosen joined Kirkland & Ellis as an associate in 1982. Six years later, he became a partner and, eventually, co-head of the Washington office and a member of the firm’s executive management committee in 1999. “I’ve also spent 30 years in the private sector at the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis, but I wanted to mention that in addition to my work as a litigator there, I served in a variety of management roles, including several years on the firm’s management committee and as co-head of its Washington, D.C., office,” Rosen testified at his confirmation hearing for the Transportation post last year. In the years before he entered the Trump administration, Rosen’s clients included BNSF Railway and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform, according to a 2017 disclosure. Rosen defended GM in many product liability lawsuits. He reported earning about $1.5 million in partner share between 2016 and early 2017. Rosen’s summer positions included Dewey Ballantine in New York (1981) and Lord Bissell & Brook in Chicago (1980).
>> There are many political donations by Rosen—but not to Trump. In 2018, while serving as a top Transportation Department official, Rosen, a Virginia resident, donated $200 to then-Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Virginia, in her failed reelection campaign. In 2016, he contributed $500 to Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, in his unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential nomination and made separate $500 donations to the campaigns of then-Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma. Rosen has also contributed to the campaigns of Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania, and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisconsin, according to federal election disclosures. Then-President George W. Bush nominated Rosen for a court post in 2008 on Washington’s federal trial bench, but the bid failed in the Democrat-controlled Senate. The American Bar Association rated Rosen “well qualified.”
>> His Harvard Law School class was stocked with future politicians. Rosen’s classmates at Harvard Law School—he graduated in 1982—included Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who previously served as assistant U.S. attorney general for civil rights under the Clinton administration and general counsel to Coca-Cola. Also in their class was Michael Kellogg, a founding partner of the Washington firm Kellogg, Hansen, Todd, Figel & Frederick. Rosen’s other law school connection is Georgetown University Law Center, where he taught a course in professional responsibility and legal ethics from 1996 to 2003 as an adjunct professor.
Mike Scarcella contributed reporting from Washington.