Jeff Sessions praised Rod Rosenstein before the Devin Nunes memo was released

  • US Attorney General Jeff Sessions had glowing words for his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, hours before the Devin Nunes memo was released on Friday.
  • At a Justice Department event, Sessions said Rosenstein and Rosenstein's deputy, Rachel Brand, represent "the kind of quality and leadership that we want in the department."
  • Sessions' praise for Rosenstein and Brand caught some attention in part because the Nunes memo attempts to implicate Rosenstein, among others, in accusations of improper surveillance at the FBI and the DOJ.
  • The attorney general's comments gained further significance after the memo came out, when Trump said "you figure that one out" in response to questions about whether he would seek to fire Rosenstein,

Attorney General Jeff Sessions praised his second-in-command, Rod Rosenstein, hours before the disputed Devin Nunes memo came out on Friday.

Sessions was preparing to speak at a Justice Department event when he paused to applaud Rosenstein and associate attorney general Rachel Brand after she had introduced Sessions to the audience.

"Thank you, Rachel, for your kind words and, more importantly, for your strong leadership as our third in command at the department," Sessions said.

14 PHOTOS
A look at Washington, D.C. the day Rep. Devin Nunes' memo was released
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A look at Washington, D.C. the day Rep. Devin Nunes' memo was released
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 02: A six-page memo alleging misconduct by senior FBI officials investigating President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign was released to the public February 2, 2018 in Washington, DC. Assembled by Committee staff of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA), the formerly classified memo alleging FBI misconduct was released to the public Friday with permission from President Donald Trump. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 02: A person leaving the secure offices of the House Intelligence Committee bolts upstairs after a six-page memo alleging misconduct by senior FBI officials investigating President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign was released to the public February 2, 2018 in Washington, DC. Assembled by Committee staff of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA), the formerly classified memo alleging FBI misconduct was released to the public Friday with permission from President Donald Trump. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
A Republican�memo, written under the direction of House Intelligence Chairman�Devin Nunes, is arranged for a photograph at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Feb. 2, 2018. FBI and Justice Department officials got a warrant to spy on a Trump campaign associate by misleading a surveillance court judge, House Republicans contend in a�newly released�memo�that Democrats have dismissed as a contrived account intended to protect the president. Photographer: Alex Wroblewski/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 02: A person enters the secure offices of the House Intelligence Committee after a six-page memo alleging misconduct by senior FBI officials investigating President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign was released to the public February 2, 2018 in Washington, DC. Assembled by Committee staff of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA), the formerly classified memo alleging FBI misconduct was released to the public Friday with permission from President Donald Trump. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 02: The FBI headquarters is seen on February 2, 2018 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump contemplating the possible release of a highly controversial Republican memo alleging the FBI abused its surveillance tools. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
A Republican�memo, written under the direction of House Intelligence Chairman�Devin Nunes, is arranged for a photograph at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Feb. 2, 2018. FBI and Justice Department officials got a warrant to spy on a Trump campaign associate by misleading a surveillance court judge, House Republicans contend in a�newly released�memo�that Democrats have dismissed as a contrived account intended to protect the president. Photographer: Alex Wroblewski/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 02: The FBI headquarters is seen on February 2, 2018 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump contemplating the possible release of a highly controversial Republican memo alleging the FBI abused its surveillance tools. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 02: A camera is seen mounted to the FBI headquarters, on February 2, 2018 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump contemplating the possible release of a highly controversial Republican memo alleging the FBI abused its surveillance tools. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 02: The FBI headquarters is seen on February 2, 2018 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump contemplating the possible release of a highly controversial Republican memo alleging the FBI abused its surveillance tools. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
A Republican�memo, written under the direction of House Intelligence Chairman�Devin Nunes, is arranged for a photograph at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Feb. 2, 2018. FBI and Justice Department officials got a warrant to spy on a Trump campaign associate by misleading a surveillance court judge, House Republicans contend in a�newly released�memo�that Democrats have dismissed as a contrived account intended to protect the president. Photographer: Alex Wroblewski/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 02: A person enters the secure offices of the House Intelligence Committee after a six-page memo alleging misconduct by senior FBI officials investigating President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign was released to the public February 2, 2018 in Washington, DC. Assembled by Committee staff of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA), the formerly classified memo alleging FBI misconduct was released to the public Friday with permission from President Donald Trump. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 02: The FBI headquarters is seen on February 2, 2018 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump contemplating the possible release of a highly controversial Republican memo alleging the FBI abused its surveillance tools. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
A Republican�memo, written under the direction of House Intelligence Chairman�Devin Nunes, is arranged for a photograph at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Feb. 2, 2018. FBI and Justice Department officials got a warrant to spy on a Trump campaign associate by misleading a surveillance court judge, House Republicans contend in a�newly released�memo�that Democrats have dismissed as a contrived account intended to protect the president. Photographer: Alex Wroblewski/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 02: The FBI headquarters is seen on February 2, 2018 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump contemplating the possible release of a highly controversial Republican memo alleging the FBI abused its surveillance tools. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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"Rod and Rachel are Harvard graduates, they are experienced lawyers. Rod's had 27 years in the department, Rachel's had a number of years in the department previously, so they both represent the kind of quality and leadership we want in the department," Sessions continued.

Watch Sessions speak below:

His remarks preceded the release of the memo alleging in part that Rosenstein improperly extended surveillance of the Trump campaign adviser Carter Page during the 2016 election.

Rosenstein is one of several law-enforcement officials who signed off on surveillance of Page as part of the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 US election. Page had been a concern for US counterintelligence officials since 2013.

Rosenstein in May 2017 appointed special counsel Robert Mueller to oversee the Russia investigation and he has since been the target of some of President Donald Trump's harshest public criticism. Those criticisms have prompted speculation that Trump was looking for reasons to fire Rosenstein.

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Rod Rosenstein through the years
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Rod Rosenstein through the years
Rod Rosenstein, nominee to be Deputy Attorney General, testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington March 7, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 10: U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein speaks during a news conference in Washington D.C. Tuesday, October 10, 2006. Rosenstein and Deputy U.S. Attorney General Paul McNulty announced the formation of a National Procurement Fraud Task Force, an effort aimed at the detection, prevention and prosecution of procurement fraud associated with increased contracting activity for national security programs. (Photo by Carol T. Powers/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 10: Deputy U.S. Attorney General Paul McNulty, center, speaks during a news conference with Alice Fisher, head of the criminal division of the U.S. Department of Justice, left, and U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein, during a news conference in Washington D.C. Tuesday, October 10, 2006. McNulty announced the formation of a National Procurement Fraud Task Force, an effort aimed at the detection, prevention and prosecution of procurement fraud associated with increased contracting activity for national security programs. (Photo by Carol T. Powers/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
SLUG: me/hornsby DATE: August 22, 2006 CREDIT: Ricky Carioti / TWP. United States Federal Courthouse in Greenbelt, Md. Federal prosecutors announce the indictment of former Prince George's County school superintendent Andre Hornsby. United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein, center, flanked by Francis Turner, left, of the United States Department of the Treasury and Assistant United States Attorney Michael Pauze announce the 16-count indictment of former Prince George's County Schools Superintendent Andre Hornsby during a press conference at federal court in Greenbelt on Tuesday. (Photo by Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post/Getty Images)
U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein talks about the sentencing of Thomas Bromwell Sr. and Mary Patricia Bromwell following their appearance in federal court in Baltimore, Maryland, Friday, November 16, 2007. (Photo by Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun/MCT via Getty Images)
GREENBELT, MD JUNE 30:United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein talked with reporters after the Guilty plea of Prince Georges County Councilwoman Leslie Johnson the U.S. District Court on June 30, 2011 in Greenbelt, MD. To Rosenstein's left is Acting Special Agent in Charge Jeannine A. Hammett of the Internal Revenue Service and to his right is Special Agent in Charge Richard A. McFeely of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. (Photo by Mark Gail/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - OCTOBER 24: Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein, on Friday, October 24, 2014 in Baltimore, Maryland. Rosenstein said Carl Lackl was scheduled to be a witness to the Larry Haynes murder but was killed when Patrick Byers plotted his murder from his jail cell. (Photo by Michel du Cille/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Rod Rosenstein, deputy attorney general nominee for U.S. President Donald Trump, listens during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, March 7, 2017. The confirmation hearing for Rosenstein began with Republicans and Democrats squaring off over who should lead probes into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and potential contacts between Moscow and Trumps campaign team. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Rod Rosenstein, deputy attorney general nominee for U.S. President Donald Trump, swears in to a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, March 7, 2017. The confirmation hearing for Rosenstein began with Republicans and Democrats squaring off over who should lead probes into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and potential contacts between Moscow and Trumps campaign team. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Rod Rosenstein, deputy attorney general nominee for U.S. President Donald Trump, sits during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, March 7, 2017. The confirmation hearing for Rosenstein began with Republicans and Democrats squaring off over who should lead probes into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and potential contacts between Moscow and Trumps campaign team. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 07: Deputy U.S. Attorney General nominee Rod Rosenstein arrives before the Senate Judiciary Committee for testimony March 7, 2017 in Washington, DC. During the hearing, Democratic senators pressed Rosenstein to appoint a special prosecutor in an ongoing federal inquiry into Russian influence in the U.S. presidential election. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Rod Rosenstein, nominee to be Deputy Attorney General, arrives to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington March 7, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
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When reporters asked Trump on Friday whether he would move to dismiss Rosenstein, Trump said "You figure that one out."

The memo, written by House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes and other top Republican lawmakers, accuses some officials at the FBI and the DOJ of acting on what it calls political bias against Trump.

Current and former officials at the agencies and some Democratic lawmakers have criticized the memo, calling it an attempt to discredit top law-enforcement institutions in the interest of protecting Trump.

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