What to Know
- NBC News worked to confirm multiple reports that Rosenstein was being fired or resigning, but sources provided contradictory claims
- In a radio interview that aired Monday morning, Trump appeared to be mulling Rosenstein's future, but wouldn't comment on it
- Rosenstein has prepared for being fired before: he told at least one confidant in April that he was ready, NBC News reported at the time
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will meet on Thursday with President Donald Trump, the White House said Monday, amid conflicting reports about Rosenstein's fate in the administration.
Trump has been weighing whether to fire him, and a report that Rosenstein, who has been overseeing the special counsel's Russia investigation, was resigning set off hours of speculation in media reports. But press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders' statement on the Thursday meeting appeared to demonstrate that Rosenstein would remain secure in his role for at least a few days.
Sanders indicated that Rosenstein, who was at the White House for hours Monday, talked to Trump Monday. The president is in New York City for the United Nations General Assembly.
"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. "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."
NBC News worked to confirm multiple reports that Rosenstein was being fired or resigning. Sources close to Rosenstein and the president offered contradictory claims about the deputy attorney general's position in the administration.
After being at the White House for several hours, Rosenstein joined a previously scheduled meeting with high-level White House officials, a Justice Department official told NBC News. As Rosenstein departed the White House, chief of staff John Kelly was seen shaking his hand.
Later, Trump addressed the Thursday meeting, saying: “We’ll be determining what’s going on. We want to have transparency, we want to have openness.”
It remains unclear if Rosenstein ever intended to resign, or if the White House contemplated firing him. He discussed his future in the administration with the top White House lawyer over the weekend, sources said. Several people familiar with the discussion told NBC News that Rosenstein contemplated resigning but others were determined to stay in the job unless Trump fired him directly.
The reports of Rosenstein's departure brought uproar from some Democrats in Washington.
"This looks to me like a slow-moving Saturday night massacre," Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said on MSNBC, referring to the Saturday in 1973 when President Richard Nixon's deputy attorney general quit rather than fire the Watergate special prosecutor.
Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said that Rosenstein "should under no circumstances resign."
In a radio interview that aired Monday morning, Trump was asked about Rosenstein's future in light of a recent report that Rosenstein had talked about a way to remove Trump from office. Trump said that he didn't want to comment on it until he got more facts.
"But certainly it's being looked at in terms of what took place, if anything took place," Trump told Geraldo Rivera in an interview taped over the weekend.
But multiple sources told NBC News that Trump decided over the weekend not to fire Rosenstein after consulting with staff and outside allies, including Fox News host Sean Hannity and influential Republican Rep. Mark Meadows.
Meadows wants Rosenstein to testify under oath about whether or not he ever thought about wearing a wire durign meetings with Trump or invoking the 25th Amendment, which provides a process for replacing the president if he or she is unable to fulfill their duties, as The New York Times reported last week. A Justice Department official and a source in the room countered the Times report to NBC News, saying that Rosenstein's discussion about wearing a wire was sarcastic.
The situation among Trump's allies is "chaos," according to an NBC News source who is close to the White House.
Rosenstein's ouster would throw the future of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election into doubt. Special counsel Robert Mueller has reported to Rosenstein because Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the investigation.
The Times reported that Rosenstein made the suggestions to record Trump and invoke the 25th Amendment in the spring of 2017, after the president had fired James Comey, the FBI director. The suggestions also reportedly came after it was revealed the president had asked Comey to end an investigation into Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security advisor, the Times reported.
Rosenstein had written a memo that was used to justify the president's firing of Comey by criticizing his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. Rosenstein was afraid he had been used, according to the Times. That report cited people briefed on meetings and conversations or on memos documenting Rosenstein's actions written by FBI officials, including Andrew McCabe, the former acting FBI chief who also was fired, nearly a year after Comey.
McCabe said in a statement Monday that he "had no role" in providing information to media organizations about the aftermath of Comey's firing. He also said he personally made sacrifices to protect Mueller's investigation.
"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.
Trump has long mulled firing Rosenstein, angry that the deputy attorney general appointed Mueller, whose probe Trump frequently calls a "witch hunt." Rosenstein took over the probe after Sessions recused himself in March 2017 over his earlier interactions with the Russian ambassador to the United States.
It's not clear who would take over the Russia probe if Rosenstein resigned or were fired. The next Justice Department official in line to perform the duties of the attorney general is Noel Francisco, the solicitor general.
Rosenstein told at least one confidant in April that he was prepared to be fired then and confident that he had done his job with integrity, NBC News reported at the time. Trump had been criticizing him publicly and was considering terminating him.
In private conversations, Rosenstein repeated the phrase, "Here I stand," referring to Christian reformer Martin Luther's quote, "Here I stand, I can do no other," sources who spoke to Rosenstein told NBC News.
In May, Rosenstein fired back against news reports that articles of impeachment against him were reportedly being drafted by Republican members of the House in a dispute over documents in the Russia probe.
"I can tell you there have been people who have been making threats privately and publicly against me for quite some time, and I think they should understand by now, the Department of Justice is not going to be extorted," he said in response to a question.