Rod Rosenstein is safe — for now.
The White House put the embattled deputy attorney general’s fate on ice Monday after rumors swirled he was expecting to be fired in light of reports that he considered secretly recording and removing President Trump from office.
“At the request of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosentein, he and President Trump had an extended conversation to discuss the recent news stories,” 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.”
Rosenstein, who oversees special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and the Russian government, was spotted earlier in the day at the White House, where sources said he expected to be axed.
A Justice Department spokeswoman did not return a request for comment.
Multiple reports last week alleged Rosenstein proposed wearing a wire to record Trump in the wake of ex-FBI Director James Comey’s firing in May 2017. Rosenstein floated the idea in private meetings with senior Justice Department officials, during which he also raised the possibility of approaching cabinet members about invoking the 25th Amendment to unseat Trump on the ground that he’s mentally unfit to serve, as first reported by The New York Times.
Rosenstein has vehemently denied those claims.
A former Justice Department official who worked closely with Rosenstein disputed the 25th Amendment detail, but acknowledged the deputy attorney general once proposed wearing a wire. However, the ex-official said Rosenstein made the wire comment sarcastically.
“He has the ability and often takes the temperature down in the room by making a calm joke in an otherwise tense setting,” the former official told the Daily News.
Trump has long resented Rosenstein, who assumed oversight of the Russia probe following the recusal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The longtime public servant appointed Mueller to lead the investigation shortly after Trump fired Comey.
As Mueller’s team indicted scores of Russians alleged to have been part of a massive conspiracy to sway the 2016 election in Trump’s favor and worked out plea deals with almost half a dozen former Trump campaign officials and aides on a variety of charges, Trump barely contained his contempt for the Justice Department’s second in command.
He repeatedly lashed out against Rosenstein and Sessions on Twitter and alleged that the Justice Department and FBI are rife with political bias.
Rosenstein’s firing would have immediate implications in the Mueller investigation.
While Mueller has been tasked with running the investigation, Rosenstein is responsible for making decisions about adding resources or personnel to the probe and whether prosecutions should be pursued.
If Rosenstein is canned, those duties fall to Solicitor General Noel Francisco, an ultraconservative Trump appointee who, much like his boss in the Oval Office, has spoken out about bias in the FBI.
Like Trump, Rosenstein is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’sWharton School. He rose through the ranks of the Justice Department after being nominated by President George W. Bush to serve as the U.S. attorney for Maryland in 2006.
Trump-loving Republicans on Capitol Hill have long sparred with Rosenstein over access to information about the Russia investigation.
House Republicans moved to bring articles of impeachment against Rosenstein over the summer.
The five articles charged Rosenstein with “high crimes and misdemeanors” for failing to provide information to several congressional committees, even though the department had already given lawmakers more than 800,000 documents about decisions made during the 2016 presidential campaign, and for signing off on what some Republicans say was improper surveillance of Trump adviser Carter Page.
Since his appointment, Rosenstein has been at the center of several Trump-related controversies.
The 53-year-old penned a memo that ultimately prompted Trump to fire Comey, a dismissal which itself is now part of Mueller’s probe.
“I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director!” Trump tweeted in summer 2017, apparently referring to a memo Rosenstein wrote that was critical of Comey’s leadership at the FBI.
“Witch hunt,” Trump added.
According to the White House, Trump at the time met with both Rosenstein and Sessions, who told their boss then they had concerns about Comey.
Trump requested that the two “put that recommendation in writing,” according to the White House. That prompted Rosenstein to offer a formal recommendation to Trump that Comey be fired because he mishandled the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. Trump later said in a now-infamous interview that he planned to get rid of Comey regardless of any recommendation.
But the ouster led Rosenstein to name Mueller as the head of the federal investigation into Russian election meddling, coupled with Sessions’ recusal.
In a strange twist of fate, the Justice Department issued an unusual warning last June urging the public to “exercise caution” when it comes to anonymous reports — such as the Times story alleging Rosenstein sought to tape the President and recruit cabinet officials to conspire against him.
The statement, attributed to Rosenstein, called on Americans to think twice “before accepting as true any stories attributed to anonymous ‘officials.’ ”
Andrew McCabe, the former deputy director of the FBI who was fired after he was accused of unauthorized leaks to the press, warned Monday that Rosenstein’s firing could catapult the Russia probe into chaos.
“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. “If the rumors of Deputy AG’s Rosenstein’s departure are true, I am deeply concerned that it puts that investigation at risk.”
This article provided by NewsEdge.