During a wild and often incoherent press conference Wednesday night, President Trump said he’d rather not fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the top law official overseeing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
That appeared to hold true, at least for now.
Trump had planned a meeting with Rosenstein for Thursday, following a flurry of reports Monday morning that the DAG was on his way out.
But Trump postponed the meeting until next week, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters on Thursday afternoon, shortly after the president arrived back in the White House from a trip to New York where he attended the United Nations General Assembly.
Democrats have worried that Rosenstein’s ouster could open the door to an attempt by the president to curtail the special counsel's investigation, and even potentially fire Mueller. The latter, Democrats argue, could constitute a full-blown Constitutional crisis.
But, alas, Trump seems to be saving that crisis for a rainy day. Sanders said both men had opted not to do anything that might overshadow Thursday’s hearings in the Senate, where Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford are testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“The President spoke with Rod Rosenstein a few minutes ago and they plan to meet next week,” Sanders told reporters. “They do not want to do anything to interfere with the hearing.”
Rosenstein and Trump have had a fraught relationship, but it took a turn for the worse last week after The New York Times dropped a bombshell report saying Rosenstein had discussed possibly recruiting cabinet members to remove Trump by invoking the 25th amendment. The Times also said Rosenstein had discussed wiretapping Trump in the White House.
Rosenstein denied the Times report, attributing them to anonymous sources biased against the bureau and “advancing a personal agenda.” The Times story cited notes taken by former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe at meetings with Rosenstein. McCabe has denied leaking his notes to reporters.
Rosenstein’s departure appeared so likely Monday that the Department of Justice drafted a statement about his leaving, which was later published in full by Axios.
That statement said that the Mueller probe would be overseen by the Department of Justice’s No. 4 official, solicitor general Noel Francisco.
In other matters, Rosenstein would be replaced by Attorney General Jeff Session’s Chief of Staff, Matt Whitaker. Whitaker has been described as a close ally of the White House. Trump’s Chief of Staff John Kelly has called him the West Wing’s “eyes and ears” at Justice, according to the Times.
Cover image: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein speaks during an event at the Newseum, Tuesday, May 1, 2018 in Washington. Rosenstein says the Justice Department is still reviewing its policy that makes it difficult for prosecutors to subpoena reporters about their sources. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)