WASHINGTON — Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s visit to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue this morning sparked a false alarm about the No. 2 Justice Department official being fired or resigning today.
The White House, though, said conversations about Friday’s allegations in a New York Times report have been bumped to later this week.
“At the request of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, he and President Trump had an extended conversation to discuss the recent news stories,” White House 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 reportedly stayed at the White House for routine meetings.
Trump is scheduled to address the UNGA on Tuesday, followed by a meeting with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. On Wednesday, he’s scheduled to give remarks at a United Nations Security Council briefing on counter-proliferation. He has bilateral meetings scheduled with the leaders of Egypt, France, South Korea, the UK, Israel, and Japan.
Rosenstein denied a report in the New York Times last week that alleged he wanted to surreptitiously record Trump and discussed rallying cabinet members to invoke the 25th amendment to remove the president from office.
The report claimed Rosenstein made the suggestions in spring 2017 after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey and the president met privately in the Oval Office with then-Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
The NYT said that Rosenstein’s comments were reflected in FBI memos from former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
Rosenstein said in a statement Friday that the story was “inaccurate and factually incorrect.”
“I will not further comment on a story based on anonymous sources who are obviously biased against the Department and are advancing their own personal agenda,” Rosenstein added. “But let me be clear about this: based on my personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment.”
Rosenstein did not name any names or mention the effort by some members of the House Freedom Caucus to fire the deputy attorney general.
The departure of Rosenstein would start a Justice Department line of succession when it comes to oversight of special counsel Robert Mueller’s continuing investigation into Russia’s campaign influence operation: Solicitor General Noel Francisco, Office of Legal Counsel head Steven Engel, and head of the National Security Division John Demers.
Francisco may recuse himself from the investigation because he was a partner at D.C. law firm Jones Day when it represented the Trump campaign.
The turn of events sparked renewed calls from some for Congress to take up pending legislation to protect the Mueller investigation. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bipartisan bill — supported by Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) — in April, but it hasn’t been brought up for a full vote in the upper chamber.
“Under no circumstances should Rod Rosenstein resign. This would place the Mueller investigation in even greater jeopardy,” tweeted House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). “Rosenstein should continue to do his job, protect the independence of the DOJ, and if the President intends to obstruct justice, force Trump to fire him.”