In 1973, Richard Nixon ordered his Attorney General to fire Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor who was investigating Watergate. The Attorney General refused and resigned, and then the Deputy Attorney General became Acting Attorney General and similarly refused and resigned, then the Solicitor General, Robert Bork, became Acting Attorney General, and finally agreed to fire Archibald Cox. (This would later hurt Bork when he was nominated to the Supreme Court.) This event is commonly known as the "Saturday Night Massacre."

Now history might be repeating itself. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation, so Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is now the Acting Attorney General for the purposes of the Russia investigation. But now that special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating President Trump for Obstruction of Justice, there are media reports that Rosenstein is considering recusing himself as well, since he was involved in the Comey firing which may be part of the investigation. And there is speculation that President Trump may fire Mueller, Rosenstein, or both.

So my question is, what is the order of succession in the Department of Justice? How deep does it go beyond Rod Rosenstein?

2 Answers 2


The current order of succession in the Department of Justice is given in President Trump's February 9 Executive Order.

  1. The Attorney General himself, Jeff Sessions
  2. The Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein
  3. The Associate Attorney General, Rachel Brand
  4. The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Dana Boente
  5. The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ilinois, Joel Levin
  6. The U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, Tom Larson

I'm not sure what would happen if all 6 names were exhausted; probably the President would have to write a new executive order. But I doubt it would ever come to that.


@KeshavSrinivasan's answer is outdated.

An executive order on March 31, 2017 replaced the Feb. 9 order as follows:

  1. The Attorney General
  2. The Deputy Attorney General
  3. The Associate Attorney General (vacant as of 4/11/18 at 6:39 pm EST)
  4. US attorney for Eastern Virginia
  5. US attorney for Eastern North Carolina
  6. US attorney for Northern Texas

Here's the order: https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/presidential-executive-order-providing-order-succession-within-department-justice/

  • 3
    Welcome to Politics, As it stands your answer is rather hard to understand. Please take the tour. Remove "FYI". Explain what "this" is in "this is not true". Explain and expand the acronyns (or initials?) AG DAG etc. Try to make your answer read properly when read out of context of any other answer.
    – James K
    Apr 11, 2018 at 23:00
  • 1
    Surely you mean EDT, not EST.
    – phoog
    Apr 12, 2018 at 5:26

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