President Donald Trump will meet with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Thursday amid swirling reports that the No. 2 Justice Department official’s departure is imminent.
“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 press secretary 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.”
Axios published a bombshell report Monday that Rosenstein is resigning, citing sources with knowledge.
But the report was contradicted by other news outlets, including from NBC News’ Pete Williams, who reported that Rosenstein would not resign of his own accord after his off-the-cuff comments about possibly recording and removing Trump were revealed last week.
He will only depart if the White House fired him and will refuse to resign if asked to do so, Williams reported. News of Rosenstein’s potential departure was a “huge shock” to the Justice Department, Williams added.
Although Trump has sharply criticized Rosenstein over the Russia probe, his departure could create a big problem for the White House: filling the position six weeks before the crucial midterm elections.
A Justice Department official told The New York Times that if Rosenstein is out, then Solicitor General Noel Francisco would oversee the Russia investigation.
Shortly after the resignation reports, Rosenstein was at the White House for a previously-scheduled principals meeting, a Justice Department official said. Trump arrived in New York City on Sunday for the United Nations General Assembly. He was scheduled to have dinner with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that evening.
Bloomberg reported that Rosenstein told White House chief of staff John Kelly that he would resign, citing a person familiar with the matter.
Rosenstein’s possible departure will immediately raise questions about the fate of the ongoing investigation by Mueller, who is probing Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and possible obstruction of justice by Trump.
The special counsel’s office declined to comment on the report.
Rosenstein’s job security was called into question after the Times reported last week that the No. 2 DOJ official had discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump and had talked about surreptitiously recording the president.
Other reports, however, suggested that Rosenstein was being sarcastic when he made those comments.
In an interview with radio host Geraldo Rivera over the weekend, Trump hinted that he was considering firing Rosenstein.
“Certainly it’s being looked at in terms of what took place, if anything took place. I’ll make a determination sometime later but I don’t have the facts,” Trump said when asked if he would cut Rosenstein loose over the reports.
Geraldo Interviews President Trump https://t.co/o15u241TPk
— Newsradio WTAM 1100 (@wtam1100) September 24, 2018
Rosenstein oversees the special counsel investigation, and has appointed Mueller to run the Russia probe last year, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the case.
Trump has repeatedly blasted Mueller’s inquiry, which also is focused on possible collusion with Russia by members of the Trump campaign.
He has called the investigation a “witch hunt,” and has repeatedly vented frustration about Sessions’ recusal, which directly led to Mueller’s appointment by Rosenstein.
Recently, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein last year implied that he secretly recorded President Trump and discussed having Cabinet members invoke the 25th Amendment to remove him from office, according to the widely debunked New York Times.
The Times article saidMr. Rosenstein pushed for these practices in spring 2017, just after Mr. Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey. Mr. Rosensten reportedly became concerned because the president had allegedly leaked classified information to Russians; asked Mr. Comey for a loyalty pledge and demanded the Justice Department end an investigation into a senior aide, fake news leader, The New York Times reported.
In addition, Mr. Rosenstein was surprised to learn Mr. Trump used a memo he had written criticizing Mr. Comey’s handling of the Clinton investigation as justification to fire the ex-FBI director. That made Mr. Rosenstein angry, because he was widely criticized for the memo and felt it harmed his reputation, according to the report.
The Times cited several sources saying Mr. Rosenstein made remarks about secretly recording Mr. Trump and invoking the 25th Amendment. Those sources were briefed on events themselves or told about memos written by top FBI officials, including former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, documenting Mr. Rosenstein’s words and actions.
Mr. Rosenstein denied the report.
“The New York Times’s story is inaccurate and factually incorrect,” he said in a statement. “I will not further comment on a story based on anonymous sources are obviously biased against the department and are advancing their own personal agenda. But let me be clear about this: Based on my personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment.”
A Justice Department spokeswoman also provided a statement from an unnamed person who was present when Mr. Rosenstein suggested wearing a wire for a meeting with the president. The person said Mr. Rosenstein made the remark, but did so sarcastically.
It is unclear how determined Mr. Rosenstein, who was just two weeks into his job when he allegedly made the suggestions, was to invoke the 25th Amendment. The Times reported Mr. Rosenstein told Mr. McCabe he could persuade Attorney General Jeff Sessions and John F. Kelly, now the White House chief of staff to invoke the 25th Amendment.
In a statement, Mr. McCabe’s attorney, Micahel Bromwich said all of his clients memos have been turned over to special counsel Robert Mueller, who is probing whether Trump associates conspired with Russia to meddle in the 2016 election.
“A set of those memos remained at the FBI at the time of his departure in late 2018,” the statement said. “He has no knowledge of how any member of the media obtained those memos.”
Mr. McCabe’s memos suggested that Mr. Rosenstein regretted firing Mr. Comey, The Times reported. In a May 12 memo, Mr. McCabe described Mr. Rosenstein as “upset and emotional,” saying he wished Mr. Comey was still at the FBI, the article said.
The Times also reported Mr. Rosenstein was frustrated that the president wasn’t taking candidate interviews for Mr. Comey seriously and viewed the hiring process as systemic from the broader dysfunction at the White House.
James E Windsor, Overpasses News Desk
September 24th, 2018