The White House said Thursday that a planned meeting between Donald Trump and Rod Rosenstein has been postponed, leaving the fate of his deputy attorney general up in the air while a high-stakes Supreme Court confirmation hearing heated up on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
‘The President spoke with Rod Rosenstein a few minutes ago and they plan to meet next week,’ White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters in a statement during the lunch hour Thursday.
‘They do not want to do anything to interfere with the hearing.’
Trump had said Wednesday during a press conference that he would rather keep Rosenstein than fire him, and hinted that he might delay Thursday’s scheduled meeting.
‘I would much prefer to keep Rod Rosenstein,’ the president told reporters near the United Nations in New York, although ‘many people say I have the right to absolutely fire him.’
He added that he might call Rosenstein ‘and ask for a little bit of a delay to the meeting’ so it wouldn’t ‘compete’ for the media’s attention with a high-stakes Supreme Court confirmation hearing 16 blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue.
As of Wednesday morning, Trump hadn’t decided whether to keep Rosenstein, who was accused in a New York Times story of proposing to secretly record the president in chaotic moments and use a quirk of the U.S. Constitution to kick him out of office.
President Donald Trump won’t have a much-anticipated meeting with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Thursday, leaving the fate of America’s no. 2 lawman in doubt
The White House said the president wanted to avoid interferingwith a tense Supreme Court confirmation hearing that pitted Judge Brett Kavanaugh (left) against Christine Ford (right), a woman who claims Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her 36 years ago
Trump said Wednesday that he’s open to letting Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein keep his job because he doesn’t believe stories about him plotting to secretly record their conversations to amass evidence to justify ousting him from power
Rosenstein was expected to quit or be fired on Monday but now a White House insider says President Donald Trump’s mind is still split on whether to keep him
‘We’ve had a good talk,’ Trump said in the afternoon. ‘He says he never said it, he doesn’t believe it, he gets a lot of respect from me. He’s very nice, and we’ll see.’
Just two days after Rosenstein told White House Chief of Staff John Kelly that he was ready to resign, it now looks like he could remain at his post – at least through the November midterm elections.
One White House official told DailyMail.com on Wednesday that the Rosenstein situation is ‘very much up in the air, and it could go either way.’
Trump will be ‘is in listening mode’ when he meets with Rosenstein on Thursday, the official added, and ‘he’ll probably hear some reasons to maintain things as they are.’
Leaving Rosenstein in his job would keep him in charge of overseeing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s expansive Russia probe, which Democrats hope will find evidence that Trump’s 2016 campaign colluded with the Kremlin to meddle with the presidential election.
But Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan and other conservative Republicans who have long claimed Rosenstein is an anti-Trump schemer smell his blood in the water and are demanding he appear before a committee to explain himself.
House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters on Wednesday that he won’t step in the middle of the controversy.
Tea Party Patriots chair Jenny Beth Martin wrote Tuesday in The Hill that ‘Rosenstein was not on Team Trump from the very beginning of his tenure.’
Trump is ‘genuinely conflicted’ about what to do, according to one source close to him who spoke to The Wall Street Journal. ‘He’s got an open mind about whether Rod really tried to orchestrate this.’
Some in the Republican Party believe former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe planted the stories as payback for his firing this year.
Establishment Republicans like George W. Bush-era White House press secretary Ari Fleischer believe stories about Rosenstein plotting against President Trump were planted
Some in the GOP say the New York Times stories about Rosenstein discussing secretly taping Trump and plotting for his ouster look like a hatchet job by fired former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, once thought to be teetering on the edge of quitting, now looks like a comparatively stable part of the Justice Department heirarchy
Former George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer sounded that alarm on Twitter.
‘The last thing POTUS should do is fire Deputy AG Rosenstein,’ Fleischer tweeted. ‘That story about the 25th amendment/wearing a wire read like Andy McCabe trying to get revenge for being fired. I hope POTUS doesn’t fall for it.’
Congressional Republicans are also planning to issue subpoenas for memos McCabe wrote after a meeting where Rosenstein reportedly talked about recording the president.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, told reporters on Tuesday that he might issue a subpoena as soon as Thursday.
That’s when Rosenstein is scheduled to meet with President Trump at the White House to untangle the mess.
The 25th Amendment allows a majority of the Cabinet, along with the vice president, to engineer a soft coup by certifying to Congress that the sitting president is incapable of fulfilling his duties.
Rosenstein has denied everything, saying that he ‘never pursued or authorized recording the president and any suggestions that I have ever advocated for the removal of the President is absolutely false.’
But on Monday he was so certain he would be fired that a Justice Department press aide drafted a farewell statement for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to issue.
‘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 read.
Republican senators have signaled that they are inclined to believe Rosenstein’s denials, hinting that they want him to remain atop the Mueller probe as a steady hand who operates as independently of the Oval Office as a Justice Department official can.
‘If there’s any attempt to fire or force out Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, that would be a huge red flag and very problematic,’ Main Sen. Susan Collins told The Wall Street Journal.
Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy also downplayed the controversy, calling it ‘just another sideshow in the circus.’
Sessions has recused himself from the Russia probe, to Trump’s great frustration, and left the duties of overseeing the investigation to Rosenstein.
After Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, Rosenstein appointed Mueller as special counsel to take over the investigation. Rosenstein is acting in Sessions’ place to oversee the probe and has the power to fire Mueller.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller (pictured) answers to Rosenstein, and there are fears that a new deupty AG wouldn’t understand the Rusia probe as well – and might not be able to withstand political pressure to wrap it up
Rosenstein makes nearly all the pivotal decisions in the Mueller investigation, including signing off on indictments.
In an investigation kept decidedly out of the public spotlight, it has been Rosenstein, not Mueller, who briefs the president and stands before microphones when indictments are announced.
If Rosenstein were to depart, Mueller and his investigators would be losing the oversight of an official who has protected their work despite the relentless attacks of Trump and his congressional allies.
There is little likelihood that a successor would be nearly as familiar with the specifics of the Mueller investigation as Rosenstein has been from Day One.
There is also no guarantee that Rosenstein’s successor would be able to withstand political pressures and be similarly supportive and protective of the work of Mueller’s team.