WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump will meet later this week with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the White House said Monday amid indications that Rosenstein was about to lose his job.
The meeting will be Thursday, said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. That’s the same day as an extraordinary Senate hearing that is to feature Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and a woman who has accused him of sexually assaulting her when they were in high school.
Rosenstein expected to be fired Monday as he headed to the White House for a national security meeting on opioid abuse, according to a person familiar with the situation. But he left with no action taken, and the White House statement suggested he may be in his job for at least several more days.
An Axios report claimed that Rosenstein gave a verbal resignation to Chief of Staff John Kelly in anticipation he would be fired, while The New York Times said Rosenstein told a White House official over the weekend he was thinking about quitting.
Any termination or resignation would have immediate implications for special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of possible collaboration between Russia and the Trump campaign before the 2016 election. Rosenstein, who is Jewish, appointed Mueller and oversees his investigation.
The development comes three days after news reports indicating that last year Rosenstein had raised the idea of secretly recording Trump and of invoking the Constitution to have his Cabinet remove him from office.
“At the request of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, he and President Trump had an extended conversation to discuss the recent news stories,” 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, DC.”
US President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally, Sept. 21, 2018, in Springfield, Missouri. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)Solicitor General Noel Francisco, the highest-ranking Senate confirmed official below Rosenstein in the Justice Department, would take control of the Mueller investigation. A spokesman for Mueller declined to comment.
Trump had previously contemplated firing Rosenstein in April after FBI raids of the office and home of the president’s longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, who has since pleaded guilty to several felonies and taken part in hours of interviews with Mueller. But the latest move comes after a New York Times report of Rosenstein comments early in 2017. That report and an unsigned opinion piece by a senior official in the Republican administration played to some of the president’s worst fears about a secret “Deep State” trying to undermine him from within the government.
The administration official, whom Trump has called for a federal investigation to unmask, wrote that there was a group of officials working to safeguard the country from the president’s most dangerous impulses. And Trump’s behavior had prompted “whispers” in the Cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, a move that was backed away from due to concerns it would “precipitate a constitutional crisis,” the writer said.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.