UPDATED (1:00 p.m. EST): This story has been updated to include a statement from the White House.
Not today. That, apparently, is Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s new mantra.
After a flurry of news reports suggesting that Rosenstein had either tendered his resignation or expected to be fired, the White House finally offered some clarity.
“At the request of Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein, he and President Trump had an extended conversation to discuss the recent news stories,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders wrote in a statement Monday shortly before 1 p.m. “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.”
News of Rosenstein’s departure began circulating Monday morning, when Axios reported the deputy AG had “verbally resigned” to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. But almost immediately after that story broke, things got … really confusing.
Rosenstein’s rumored departure caused ripples of anxiety through Washington’s political circles due to his status directly overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Speculation has run rampant that Trump could attempt to stymie the Russia probe by firing Rosenstein.
Reports suggesting Rosenstein was expecting to get canned on Monday followed a New York Times bombshell on Friday. The Times, citing anonymous sources, reported that Rosenstein had discussed wiretapping Trump in the White House in 2017 and also possibility recruiting Cabinet members to force Trump’s resignation via the 25th Amendment.
Rosenstein denied the Times report, attributing them to anonymous sources biased against the bureau and “advancing a personal agenda.” But they've raised a dark cloud of suspicion over his relationship with Trump.
The Times story cited notes taken by former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe at meetings with Rosenstein, but on Monday McCabe denied leaking his notes to reporters. In a statement sent to VICE News, McCabe also described himself as gravely concerned about the reports that Rosenstein may be on the way out.
“If the rumors of Deputy AG’s Rosenstein’s departure are true, I am deeply concerned that it puts that investigation at risk,” McCabe said.
But Rosenstein, for now anyway, will remain in his position until at least Thursday, when he meets with Trump.
Concern over Rosenstein’s position comes as special counsel Mueller has tightened his circle around Trump and his allies in recent weeks. One high-profile member of the Trump team after another has pleaded guilty to crimes and agreed to cooperate. Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, was the latest top Trump official to flip. Manafort reached a cooperation deal with Mueller in early September, in a decision that sent shockwaves through Washington.
Cover image: Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announces grand jury indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, U.S., July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis