Notebook: And for the Defense…. Mike Miller
By Bruce DePuyt and Josh Kurtz
For more than a decade, Rod Rosenstein was a highly-regarded federal prosecutor who won countless courtroom victories against murderers, drug dealers, carjackers and crooked cops. Appointed U.S. attorney for Maryland by President George W. Bush in 2005, he was the only federal prosecutor kept on by President Obama after he won the White House in 2008.
Still, it was a surprise when state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (D-Calvert) used the closing moments of a quiet session this week to leap to the deputy U.S. attorney general’s defense.
“Just one observation,” Miller began, after senators applauded the high school students serving as pages this week and began rustling papers in preparation for adjournment.
“There’s a fellow named Rod Rosenstein. He’s been in this body a dozen times. A great guy. An honest guy. A courageous lawyer. Appointed by a Republican president. Served.. a Democratic president. And again serving a Republican president.”
He continued: “I was away this weekend. But the silence was deafening. Nobody stood up and defended our friend.”
Miller, who has practiced law in Maryland for decades, was undoubtedly referring to the unwillingness of Republican lawmakers in Washington, D.C., to back Rosenstein after President Trump failed to commit to keeping him on as the Justice Department’s No. 2 man (“You figure that one out,” the president said gruffly, after being asked about Rosenstein’s future by reporters).
Although he was a Republican prosecutor in an overwhelmingly Democratic state, Rosenstein enjoyed a reputation for being a straight-shooter. According to one profile, the state’s homicide rate fell by twice the national average during his tenure.
“He’s just a great man,” Miller said of Rosenstein, wrapping up his defense. “He’s pursed his craft diligently and honestly. … He’s our friend. And we’re very proud that he’s [deputy AG]. And he’s in a tough spot right now.”
CNN reported last week that Trump is peeved that Rosenstein — who took over the Russian meddling probe when Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself — and signed off on at least one wiretapping application regarding former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. The network later reported that shortly after Trump made his remarks, a White House official said there was no current consideration of firing Rosenstein.
The General Services Administration seems to be inching toward a decision to keep the FBI in Washington, D.C., a move that would represent a defeat for the suburban jurisdictions, like Prince George’s County, that have tried to lure the agency away from downtown.
The Washington Business Journal reported late last month that GSA, the government’s property management agency, “appears to be leaning toward keeping the agency at the site of the J. Edgar Hoover Building on Pennsylvania Avenue.”
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), who has worked with the state’s congressional delegation to lure the FBI to Maryland, said in an interview this week that there are multiple reasons to stick with the original plan to build a new state-of-the-art headquarters with a proper security perimeter, rather than remodeling up the current building.
“You would have to move them to temporary quarters. Then you have to renovate a building that you’re probably going to tear down in the next 10 years. That doesn’t make any sense. And it would hurt [employee] morale.”
Fairfax County, Va., has tried to lure the FBI to Springfield, to a site near the Blue/Orange line of Metro. Maryland officials have offered sites in Greenbelt and Largo – both also near Metro stops.
More details on the Trump administration’s thinking may come on Monday went the White House releases its fiscal 2019 budget proposal.
It’s not lost on observers that the Hoover Building is a half-block from the Trump International Hotel, and the president, who has strongly condemned the agency in recent weeks, may not want a rival hotel opening so close to his property.
Baker’s Man (and Women)
Speaking of Baker, the county executive has announced three new hires for his gubernatorial campaign. Madeline Russak will serve as the campaign’s director of communications.
Prior to joining the campaign, Russak served as communications director for Engage Cuba, a national coalition of businesses, trade associations and state and local leaders dedicated to lifting the U.S. embargo on Cuba. Previously, she worked as the deputy press secretary for U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.). Russak received a B.A. in political science from the University of Southern California.
Reggie McKoy will serve as the field and outreach director. McKoy, a Maryland native, served as the deputy national organizing director at the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee; the senior deputy organizing director for former Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu’s campaign; the regional organizing director for former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D); and a regional get-out-the-vote director for Obama for America.
In addition to his campaign experience, McKoy served as the director of Constituent Services and Management for McAuliffe. McKoy received a B.S. in psychology with a concentration in behavioral science from Davidson College and a J.D. from Widener University School of Law.
Sarita Williams will serve as the Deputy Political Director. Also a Maryland native, Williams recently moved back to the state after receiving a Masters of Public Affairs at the University of San Francisco. While earning her degree, Williams worked as a project assistant for Civic Edge Consulting and a graduate fellow at the RALLY Communications firm.
Prior to receiving her Masters, Williams managed online promotional campaigns and outreach efforts for the American Society of Interior Designers and worked as an operations assistant for the Glover Park Group. Williams received a B.A. in communications at the University of Maryland.
“We’re excited to expand our talented and experienced team with deep ties to Maryland in order to continue to lay the groundwork for a successful campaign,” Baker said in a statement.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced this week that it has put Maryland’s lone Republican congressman, U.S. Rep. Andrew P. Harris, on its target list.
Sensing a political wave building, the DCCC now has more than 100 GOP seats in its sights.
“The DCCC has continued to expand what is likely the largest battlefield in history,” said New Mexico Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, the chairman of the House Democrats’ campaign arm. “Democrats are firmly on offense for a variety of reasons, including incredible candidate recruitment, record-breaking fundraising, a historically unpopular Republican agenda, and extensive district level polling showing Democrats already beating or in close competition with their opponents.”
Most analysts suggest the Democrats have a decent chance of flipping the 24 seats they need to win back the House majority. But is Harris a credible target?
Thanks to Democratic gerrymandering in the rest of the state, Harris’ 1st District, which takes in the Eastern Shore, Harford County, and portions of Baltimore and Carroll counties, is very conservative. President Trump carried the district by 28 points in 2016, and Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan (R), who is up for reelection this year, took just shy of 80 percent there in 2014.
Through Dec. 31, Harris had $1,116,216 in his campaign account. The best funded Democrat, Afghanistan War veteran Jesse Colvin, reported $186,101 on hand. Former Talbot County attorney Michael Pullen had $33,432 in the bank, while business consultant Allison Galbraith reported $32,465.
As of Thursday, the nonpartisan Cook Political Report had 73 GOP-held districts at various levels of competitiveness – from lean Democrat to tossup to lean Republican to likely Republican. Harris’ seat was not among them.
“We have a long way to go and won’t take anything for granted,” Lujan conceded, “but are on track to take back the House in November.”