After a tumultuous morning of conflicting reports that he was resigning or may be fired, it appears Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will stay in his current position for at least a few more days.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders put out a statement Monday that said Rosenstein had had an “extended conversation to discuss the recent news stories,” at Rosenstein’s request.
“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.,” Sanders said.
Asked earlier Monday about the reports that Rosenstein had offered his resignation or was being fired, Justice Department Sarah Isgur Flores responded by email that “he is the [Deputy Attorney General.]”
Speculation that Rosenstein was about the be ousted from the No. 2 position at the Justice Department, from where he oversees special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, reached a fever pitch has he headed to the White House Monday morning for what was apparently a previously scheduled meeting.
If Rosenstein left the Justice Department, it would represent a major threat to investigation, and Democrats were already calling for emergency hearings in the case of his departure.
Solicitor General Noel Francisco is next in line to take over oversight of Mueller’s probe.
Friday, The New York Times published bombshell report about memos written by former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe recounting Rosenstein last year suggesting the invocation of the 25th Amendment, and he would wear a wire with the President. Other Justice Department sources argued that Rosenstein was being sarcastic when making the wire comment.
An Axios report that Rosenstein had offered a verbal resignation to White House chief-of-staff John Kelly kicked off a series of conflicting reports as to whether he had in fact tendered a resignation or if he was just expecting to be terminated.
As Rosenstein was reportedly summoned to the White House Monday,Bloomberg reported that the White House accepted his resignation, while NBC News’ Pete Williams reported that Rosenstein had told people he was not resigning and that the White House would need to fire him if Trump wanted him out instead
There are other implications, however, for the White House’s ability to replace Rosenstein under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act that depend on whether he is fired or had resigned.
President Trump is not in Washington, Monday, but in New York for the United Nations General Assembly. Kelly is at the White House, according to Politico.
Rosenstein has served in the Justice Department for nearly three decades. Prior to his appointment as deputy attorney general, he was the U.S. Attorney for Maryland, a position he first rose to during the George W. Bush administration and continued in through Barack Obama’s administration.
“I do my job without regard to partisan political consideration,” he said in an interview with the Baltimore Sun as he was preparing to step into the No. 3 role at the Justice Department.
The Senate confirmed him 94-6.
His reputation for being an apolitical straight shooter first came under fire when the White House released a memo he had written criticizing how former FBI Director James Comey handled the Hillary Clinton email investigation. The memo did not explicitly call for Comey’s firing, but the White House nonetheless used it to justify the decision, which Trump later admitted was driven by the Russian investigation.
According to the Friday New York Times report, Rosenstein was distraught that his memo was used as justification for firing Comey.
Because Attorney General Jeff Sessions was recused from the Russia probe, it was Rosenstein who ultimately appointed Mueller, in the wake of revelations that Trump may have pressured Comey on the Russia investigation before firing him.
While Sessions has taken the brunt of Trump’s public anti-Mueller anger, Rosenstein continued to be targeted by Trump’s allies. Trump’s staunchest supporters on Capitol Hill have floated impeaching him over allegations he was withholding documents related to the Russia probe from lawmakers.
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