US President Donald Trump and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the special counsel investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election, will meet on Thursday amid uncertainty about the official’s fate.
In a statement on Twitter, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said on Monday that Rosenstein and Trump “had an extended conversation to discuss the recent news stories”.
She added: “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, DC.”
The scheduled meeting comes after reports, saying Rosenstein had verbally offered his resignation to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly amid speculation that he would be fired. Several US media outlets, citing individuals familiar with the matter, said Rosenstein had expected to be fired on Monday as he headed to the White House for a national security meeting on opioid abuse. But he left with no action taken.
Last week, the New York Times reported that in 2017 Rosenstein had suggested secretly recording Trump and recruiting Cabinet members to invoke a constitutional amendment to remove him from the office. The newspaper said none of those proposals came to fruition. Rosenstein denied the report as “inaccurate and factually incorrect”.
As of Sunday, Trump said he had not decided what to do about Rosenstein. He angrily asked confidants, both inside and outside the White House, how to respond. He received mixed messages. Some urged him to fire Rosenstein. Others suggested restraint while seeing if the report was incorrect or if it was planted by some adversary.
Trump faces mounting pressure from the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is looking into Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election.
Rosenstein assumed supervision of the investigation after his boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, recused himself because of his own contacts with Russia’s ambassador to Washington while serving as a Trump campaign adviser became public.
The US president had previously floated the idea firing Rosenstein in April after FBI raids of the office and home of the president’s longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, who has since pleaded guilty to several felonies and taken part in interviews with Mueller’s team.
Congressional Republicans, Democrats and some Trump aides have warned for months that the president shouldn’t fire Rosenstein.
The reports about Rosenstein add to the turmoil roiling the administration, just six weeks before midterm elections with control of Congress at stake. In addition to dealing with the Mueller investigation, the White House is also struggling to win confirmation of its Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations.