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J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Last week, Rod Rosenstein was the toast of the White House. Tonight, he went against President Trump's wishes and took the Russia probe to a new level.

  • The initial party line on James Comey's firing: Trump had accepted the recommendation of his deputy attorney general, a "universally respected" and apolitical figure. Rosenstein, a longtime Department of Justice official, was reportedly infuriated that Trump's decision had been pinned on him.
  • Eight days after Comey's ouster: Rosenstein took the dramatic step of naming former FBI director Robert Mueller special counsel in the Russia probe, tasked with investigating ties between Trump campaign associates and the Kremlin.
  • Trump was reportedly not informed until after Rosenstein signed the order, less than an hour before the public announcement. Some media organizations received the news around the same time.

Why it matters: The White House can hardly attack Rosenstein's decision. After all, they spent 24+ hours arguing that his judgment was above reproach.

A key point: Mueller's investigation falls under the DOJ umbrella, but because Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself, he will be reporting to Rosenstein. Mueller is nobody's lackey, and Rosenstein emphatically proved his independence from the White House tonight. Trump may therefore be helpless to steer the investigation.

Rosenstein's redemption: Whether it was his intention or not, Rosenstein has exacted revenge over how the Comey firing played out.

Next up: The Senate will receive a classified briefing from Rosenstein on Thursday afternoon, with the House getting its own briefing on Friday morning, reports CNN's Deirdre Walsh.

Go deeper

15 mins ago - Health

CDC: It's time for "universal face mask use"

Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty

The CDC is urging “universal face mask use” for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began, citing recent case spikes as the U.S. has entered a phase of “high-level transmission” before winter officially begins.

Why it matters: Daily COVID-related deaths across the U.S. hit a new record on Wednesday. Face coverings have been shown to increase protection of the wearer and those around them, despite some Americans' reluctance to use them.

2 hours ago - World

Saudi Arabia and Qatar near deal to end standoff, sources say

Qatar's prime minister (R) attends the 2019 Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Saudi Arabia. Photo: Fayez Nureldine/AFP via Getty

Saudi Arabia and Qatar are close to a deal to end the diplomatic crisis in the Gulf following U.S.-mediated reconciliation talks this week, sources familiar with the talks tell me.

Why it matters: Restoring relations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar would bring a sense of stability back to the Gulf after a 3.5 year standoff. It could also notch a last-minute achievement for the Trump administration before Jan. 20.

House passes bill to decriminalize marijuana

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), a longtime marijuana legalization advocate and co-sponsor of the bill. Photo: Pete Marovich For The Washington Post via Getty Images

The House on Friday voted 228-164 in favor of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, marking the first time a congressional chamber has voted in favor of decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level.

Why it matters: The Washington Post describes the bill as a "landmark retreat in the nation’s decades-long war on drugs," which has disproportionately affected people of color.