The full text of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s exit statement was revealed on Tuesday after Monday’s dramatic turn of events that left questions about his status in President Trump’s administration.
The statement from the Justice Department spoke of his ‘many and significant’ contributions but it never had to be used as Rosenstein did not end up exiting the agency.
‘Rod Rosenstein has served the Department of Justice with dedication and skill for 28 years. His contributions are many and significant. We all appreciate his service and sincerely wish him well,’ it said, according to Axios.
The rest of the statement detailed who would take over his duties.
It was written by Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores in the voice of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and sent to the White House Monday morning, the news website reported.
But it stay on the shelf after Rosenstein remained in his job.
Following a flurry of reports Monday that Rod Rosenstein would head to the White House to tender his resignation, the deputy attorney general turned up to attend a routine Cabinet meeting instead.
Rosenstein’s head was thought to be on the choppping block following a spate of negative press revolving around alleged plots to secretary record President Trump and use the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as a lever to force him from office.
A handful of media outlets, led by Axios, reported that Rosenstein had toldWhite House Chief of Staff John Kelly that he was leaving his post in anticipation that Trump would swing the axe.
‘He’s expecting to be fired,’ a source told the news website Axios.
Bloomberg News reported that Kelly, who spoke with Trump on the phone before the president’s lunch in New York City, had accepted Rosenstein’s resignation.
But within an hour the Justice Department’s second-in-command was attending a previously scheduled Cabinet meeting in the West Wing, sitting in for a traveling Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
President Trump told reporters later in the day that he’d spoken to Rosenstein on the phone and would be meeting with him on Thursday at the White House.
‘We’ll be determining what’s going on,’ Trump said as he was peppered with questions about the deputy attorney general’s employment status during a meetin in New York with the South Korean president. ‘We want to have transparency. We want to have openness, and I look forward to meeting with Rod at that time.’
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (right) was expecte dto be out of a job by lunchtime Monday after meeting with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly (left) but instead he talked to President Donald Trump on the phone and arranged a meeting Thursday to talk about his future
Rosenstein left the White House after attending a regularly scheduled Cabinet meeting in the place of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was traveling; news reports swirled that he was on his way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to tender his resignation or be fired
United States Solicitor General Noel Francisco (left) would oversee the Russia probe if Rosenstein were to leave;Justice Department Chief of Staff Matt Whitaker (right) was reportedly set to become acting deputy AG
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders had hinted in a statement that crunch time won’t come for another three days, because of Trump’s travel to New York.
‘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.’
Sanders on Tuesday declined to say if Trump has confidence in Rosenstein, saying on ABC’s ‘Good Morning America’: ‘The president has confidence in the system.’
‘That’s not what I asked,’ ABC’s George Stephanopoulos replied.
‘I won’t get ahead of the conversation that will take place. Certainly he wants things to take place. There have been a number of incidents that have caused a great deal of concern, not just to the president, but to Americans all over the country,’ she said.
And she didn’t answer when asked directly if the president would fire Rosenstein.
‘I won’t get ahead of the president’s decision-making. Again, he wants the process to work. He wants the Department of Justice to be focused on what it should be and not focused on all of the things that have been taking place over the last several months,’ she said.
Axios stood by its story, with its principal White House reporter tweeting that ‘Rosenstein offered his resignation to Kelly. We wrote ‘verbally resigned.’ Justice Dept isn’t denying he offered his resignation.’
Rosenstein denied a New York Times report last week that he suggested secretly recording the president in 2017 to provide a rationale for declaring him unfitr to serve in the Oval Office.
If he were to leave the administration, Solicitor General Noel Francisco would inherit Rosenstein’s role overseeing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s expansive Russia probe.
The rest of Rosenstein’s duties, however, were reportedly set to go to Sessions’ chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, who would serve as acting deputy AG.
A federal law called the Vacancies Act directs the president to fill power vacuums in executive branch agencies when officials quit or die – at least until a Senate-confirmed replacement can take over.
Trump’s options, however, would be limited to the list of officials that the U.S. Senate has vetted and confirmed to their current positions.
Francisco could bring pluses and minuses to the acting deputy attorney general role.
He was the one-man Supreme Court wrecking ball who persuaded the Supreme Court to uphold Trump’s country-specific travel ban.
But he also stood firm when Republicans in Congress threatened him with impeachment and removal for refusing to hand over Justice Department documents that lawmakers believed would cast doubt on the Mueller probe’s origins and motives.
Francisco is also a former partner in the law firm Jones Day, which Trump retained for many years in his pre-political days.
The DOJ would be skipping over another more senior official to put Francisco in charge of supervising the Mueller probe, a move that’s likely to raise some eyebrows among Democrats in Washington.
Edward O’Callaghan was appointed acting principal associate deputy attorney general in April, but the Trump administration’s position is that he can’t serve in two temporary ‘acting’ roles at the same time.
Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein departs the Supreme Court in April with his family, after arguing his first case before the court
US Ambassador Nikki Haley (R), Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (C) and national security adviser John Bolton (L) give a press briefing in New York
California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris urged federal lawmakers on Monday to step between Trump and the Mueller probe, demanding a new law that would prevent the president from ordering his ouster.
‘The Senate must pass legislation to protect special counsel Robert Mueller TODAY. Republican leaders must allow it to be voted on,’ Harris tweeted.
‘We can no longer afford to wait. This is a matter of preserving the rule of law.’
Trump had not committed to Rosenstein’s fate during a Friday morning radio broadcast.
‘I don’t want to comment on it until I get all the facts,’ Trump told Geraldo Rivera when asked about firing Rosenstein. ‘I haven’t gotten all the facts, but certainly it’s being looked at in terms of what took place. If anything took place and I’ll make a determination sometime later, but I don’t have the facts.’
He also said it was Sessions who hired Rosenstein.
‘I was not involved in that process. They hire their own deputies and people who work in the department,’ Trump said.
The president is in New York for meetings at the United Nations General Assembly. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, at a briefing for reporters, declined to answer questions on Rosenstein, saying check with the White House.
Officials there denied there have been any conversations about invoking the 25th Amendment against the president.
‘I have never been in the White House when conversations like that have happened. I’m not aware of any Cabinet members even talking about that. It is completely and totally absurd. No one is questioning the president at all. If anything we’re trying to keep up with him,’ UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said.
‘No one discussed with me any conversations on the 25th Amendment,’ Pompeo added, ‘so you can now say there are two senior administration officials that said your question is ludicrous.’
Democrats were quick to react to the news
Sen. Harris urged the Senate to pass legislation to protect Mueller
Democrats were quick to pounce.
‘Saturday Night Massacres don’t need to happen on a Saturday. If President Trump fires DAG Rod Rosenstein or forces his resignation, he will come one giant leap closer to directly meddling with the Special Counsel’s Russia investigation,’ wrote Sen. Patrick Leahy on Twitter.
‘Saturday Night Massacre’ refers to a series of events on October 20, 1973 during the Watergate scandal. Then-President Richard Nixon ordered Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire independent special prosecutor Archibald Cox; Richardson refused and resigned.
Nixon then ordered Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus to fire Cox; Ruckelshaus refused and resigned. When Nixon ordered Solicitor General Robert Bork to fire Cox, he did as the president asked.
The liberal leaning watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington pounced, raising the specter of improper interference by the president.
‘[F]or the president to fire or force the resignation of a law enforcement official in order to derail an investigation into the president … [would be] obstruction of justice, plain and simple,’ the group’s executive director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement.
He said that if Trump made a move to pink-slip Rosenstein, it ‘must ultimately prove to be an unsuccessful effort to prevent a full investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and related obstruction of justice.’
President Trump slammed the ‘bad ones’ in the Justice Department following reports Rosenstein wanted to wear a wire to secretly record him
Speaking to a fired-up crowd at a rally, he said there was a ‘lingering stench’ in Justice ‘and we’re going to get rid of that
On Friday night, Trump slammed the ‘bad ones’ in the Justice Department following reports Rosenstein wanted to wear a wire to secretly record the president and discussed invoking the 25th Amendment.
Speaking to a fired-up crowd at a rally in Missouri on Friday night, he said there was a ‘lingering stench’ in Justice ‘and we’re going to get rid of that.’
He was in Springfield supporting Republican Senate nominee Josh Hawley, who is running against two-term Democratic senator Claire McCaskill.
Hours after the New York Times broke the story, Trump said: ‘Just look at what is being exposed in our Justice Department.
‘We have great people in the Department of Justice. … But you’ve got some real bad ones. You’ve seen what’s happened at the FBI. They’re all gone.
‘But there’s a lingering stench and we’re going to get rid of that, too.’
Rosenstein suggested last year that he should make covert audio recordings of President Trump in order to build a case for removing him from office, according to the New York Times report.
He disputed that account on Friday, and a Justice Department official who was reportedly in the room when Rosenstein talked about using the 25th Amendment to end the Trump presidency says he was being sarcastic.
Rosenstein (pictured in July) suggested last year that he should make covert audio recordings of President Trump in order to build a case for removing him from office, according to a New York Times report
Rosenstein (pictured with Trump in May) disputed that account on Friday, and a Justice Department official who was reportedly in the room when Rosenstein talked about using the 25th Amendment to end the Trump presidency says he was being sarcastic
The 25th Amendment allows for a majority of the president’s Cabinet, or ‘such other body as Congress may by law provide,’ to decide if an Oval Office occupant is unable to carry out his duties – and then to put it to a full congressional vote.
Rosenstein released a statement on Friday night saying: ‘I never pursued or authorized recording the President and any suggestion that I have ever advocated for the removal of the President is absolutely false.’
That account agrees with a Fox News report based on sources who were in the room and said the meeting took place May 16, 2017.
The Washington Post, too, cited a source who said Rosenstein’s comment was biting but unserious.
The reports about Rosenstein created even greater uncertainty for the deputy attorney general tenure at a time when Trump has lambasted Justice Department leadership and publicly humiliated both Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
More broadly, it’s the latest revelation that could affect Mueller, the special counsel investigating possible coordination between Russia and Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016. Sessions recused himself from that issue soon after he took office, to Trump’s dismay, and Rosenstein then appointed Mueller.
With all that hanging in the air, Trump has resisted calls from conservative commentators to fire both Sessions and Rosenstein and appoint someone who would ride herd more closely on Mueller or dismiss him.
A number of key FBI officials, including Director James Comey and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, have been givien their walking papers since Trump took office.