Rod Rosenstein, the Justice Department official who appointed the special counsel investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, escaped the political turmoil in Washington on Thursday to visit Miami.
The deputy attorney general was the guest host of a round-table discussion about South Florida’s innovative efforts to fight human trafficking.
During the scripted, hourlong event at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Rosenstein was spared any news media questions about Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of the Russians and their interaction with President Donald Trump’s campaign. Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, who is among four former aides indicted so far, sued Mueller, Rosenstein and the Justice Department on Wednesday.
Instead, Rosenstein focused on the progress of law enforcement’s crackdown on sex- and labor-trafficking cases in South Florida, saying he was moved by the work of the FBI, Homeland Security, prosecutors and nonprofit advocates to protect victims of these crimes.
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“It’s been an inspiring day for me,” Rosenstein, a former U.S. attorney in Maryland, told the gathering. “We’re going to take some of these ideas back to Washington ... and hopefully replicate this model so we can do this kind of work around the country.”
Since 2010, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in South Florida has been at the forefront of prosecutions of offenders involved in trafficking underage girls and young women in prostitution rings, as well as in exploiting migrant farmworkers. The investigations span from South Florida to the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America.
U.S. Attorney Ben Greenberg said over the past eight years the office has prosecuted 92 offenders in 58 cases, which included 75 survivors of some type of sexual or labor abuse.
Greenberg praised law enforcement and community leaders for collaborating on the cases. “It’s about action,” he said, “because words are not enough to protect the victims.”
At the outset of the discussion, he noted that January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.