Rosenstein to Meet With Trump Thursday 09/25 06:15
President Donald Trump has given Rosenstein a three-day reprieve pending
their face-to-face White House showdown on Thursday. That's when the man who
oversees the Trump-Russia investigation will respond to reports that he had
discussed secretly recording the president and possibly using constitutional
procedures to remove him from office.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- After a long weekend spent wondering if he should resign
or would be fired, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein still has his job --
President Donald Trump gave Rosenstein a three-day reprieve pending their
face-to-face White House showdown on Thursday. That's when the man who oversees
the Trump-Russia investigation will respond to reports that he had discussed
secretly recording the president and possibly using constitutional procedures
to remove him from office.
The revelation that Rosenstein last year had broached the idea of taping the
president touched off a dramatic weekend of conversations with the White House
in which he offered to one official to resign and confided to another that he
was considering doing so, according to two people familiar with the discussions
who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.
Even as he took issue with the reports, Rosenstein arrived at the White
House on Monday expecting to be fired, according to another person who spoke on
condition of anonymity. Instead, after he met with chief of staff John Kelly
and spoke by phone to Trump himself, questions about his future were
effectively tabled until the personal meeting on Thursday.
The position of deputy attorney general is ordinarily a relatively
low-visibility one in Washington, but Rosenstein has assumed outsized
significance given his appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller to
investigate potential ties between Russia and Trump's 2016 presidential
Any firing or resignation spells immediate uncertainty for an investigation
that Rosenstein oversees and would place that responsibility in the hands of a
replacement who Democrats fear would be less respectful of Mueller's
independence and mandate. Even some congressional Republicans and Trump aides
have warned for months against firing Rosenstein for fear that it could lead to
The commotion about Rosenstein's future adds to the turmoil roiling the
administration, just six weeks before midterm elections with control of
Congress at stake. In addition to dealing with the Mueller investigation, the
White House is also struggling to win confirmation of Supreme Court nominee
Brett Kavanaugh in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations.
The Trump-Rosenstein meeting will be on the same day as an extraordinary
Senate committee hearing featuring Kavanaugh and a woman who has accused him of
sexually assaulting her when they were in high school.
Questions about Rosenstein's future, long simmering, took on new life Friday
with a New York Times report that in May 2017 discussions with FBI and Justice
Department officials he suggested the idea of secretly recording Trump --
remarks his defenders insist were merely sarcastic -- and of invoking the
Constitution to have the Cabinet consider removing him from office.
Rosenstein was summoned to the White House on Friday evening for a
conversation with chief of staff Kelly after which he issued a denial meant to
be even sharper in tone than the one the Justice Department sent out hours
In conversations over the weekend, he offered to Kelly to resign, though the
terms were unclear. He also told White House Counsel Don McGahn that he was
considering doing so. McGahn told Rosenstein they should discuss the issue
Monday, said the person who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the
He met again with Kelly on Monday and spoke by phone with Trump, also
attending a pre-scheduled meeting at the White House in place of the Attorney
General Jeff Sessions, who was traveling. Rosenstein was captured by
photographers leaving the White House after his meetings Monday and was led out
by Kelly, later returning to the White House.
"At the request of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, he and President
Trump had an extended conversation to discuss the recent news stories," White
House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. "Because the
President is at the United Nations General Assembly and has a full schedule
with leaders from around the world, they will meet on Thursday when the
President returns to Washington, D.C."
It's unclear what will happen Thursday.
Despite his "You're Fired!" tagline from his "The Apprentice" reality show
days, the president has shown himself reluctant to directly fire aides himself.
While his White House has been marked with unprecedented staff turnover, Trump
has often left the task to deputies, including Kelly.
He dispatched his former bodyguard to fire FBI Director James Comey --
though Comey was out of town. In other cases, Trump has publicly and privately
shamed staffers, pushing them to resign.
Trump, who on Friday said that he would remove a "lingering stench" from the
Justice Department, did not publicly reveal any plans over the weekend.
On Monday, he said he hoped Thursday's meeting would help him figure out
"what's going on."
Over the weekend, he appeared undecided on Rosenstein's fate, asking
confidants, both inside and outside the White House, how to respond to the
situation. Some urged him to fire Rosenstein. Others suggested restraint while
checking whether the report was correct or if it was planted by some adversary.
Though Trump has mostly spared Rosenstein from some of the harsher and more
personal attacks he has directed at Attorney General Jeff Sessions, he has
occasionally lashed out with angry tirades at the deputy, including after FBI
raids in April targeting the president's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.
Rosenstein appointed Mueller in May 2017 after Sessions, who ordinarily
would have overseen the Russia investigation, recused himself because of his
close involvement in the Trump campaign.
The move came one week after Rosenstein laid the groundwork for Comey's
firing by writing a memo criticizing Comey's handling of the FBI investigation
into Hillary Clinton's email server. The White House initially cited that memo
as justification for Comey's firing, though Trump himself has said he was
thinking about "this Russia thing" when he made his move.
Were Rosenstein to be forced out, Solicitor General Noel Francisco, the
highest-ranking Senate-confirmed official below him in the Justice Department,
would take control of the Mueller investigation.
Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, whose private memos document
comments allegedly made by Rosenstein, said Monday he was concerned that a
Rosenstein departure would put the investigation at risk.
"There is nothing more important to the integrity of law enforcement and the
rule of law than protecting the investigation of special counsel Mueller,"
McCabe said in a statement. "I sacrificed personally and professionally to help
put the investigation on a proper course and subsequently made every effort to