Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein talks terrorism, violent crime in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY -- One of the top officials in the U.S. Department of Justice is pushing initiatives to crack down on terrorism and violent crime.

Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein spoke to more than 600 police and prosecutors at a national security and anti-terrorism conference here.

"Law enforcement agencies must always be prepared for the storm --- be it the literal hurricane that caused such devastation in Texas this week, or the figurative storm of a terrorist attack," he said.

Rosenstein highlighted trends in terrorism in his speech on Wednesday.

"The number of Americans trying to travel to join the Islamic State has dropped significantly. Two years ago, it was six to ten per month. Now, it is often one or none," Rosenstein said.

Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (left) appears at a news conference with U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber on August 30, 2017. (Photo by Ben Winslow, FOX 13 News)

He credited the U.S. military for some of the decline.

"People are less inclined to join a losing cause," he said.

But Rosenstein also cautioned police about the threat of domestic terrorism. He said the FBI has terror-related investigations under way in all 50 states. He called domestic terrorism fueled by "hate and bigotry."

"In Charlottesville this month, we saw and heard people openly advocate racism and bigotry. Our Department of Justice responded immediately. We are working closely with local authorities on potential criminal civil rights prosecutions," he said.

Utah Department of Public Safety Commissioner Keith Squires said he is aware of ongoing terrorism investigations here.

"They have ties to Utah and sometimes they also have suspects in Utah," he told FOX 13.

Rosenstein is a key figure in the ongoing probe of Russian influence in the 2016 elections. He wrote the memo that led to FBI director James Comey's firing. He also has some oversight of special counsel Robert Mueller, taking over after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself.

Appearing at a news conference on Wednesday with U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber, Rosenstein promoted Justice Department initiatives.

"We are carrying out the priorities of President Trump," he said, speaking of combatting violent gang and drug crime.

Huber said violent crime in Utah has grown by 13 percent and, in response, he has ordered more of an emphasis on prosecuting gang, gun and violent crimes.

"I met with my office here and reorganized and consolidated our resources to focus our efforts in the United States Attorney’s Office with our efforts to beat back violent crime in Utah," he said. "That is our intent. That is our purpose."