WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump postponed a Thursday meeting to discuss the tenure of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to avoid interference with a Senate hearing where Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is set to confront allegations of sexual assault.
“The president spoke with Rod Rosenstein a few minutes ago and they plan to meet next week,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said. “They do not want to do anything to interfere with the hearing.”
The urgency for a meeting appeared to abate after Trump signaled his support Wednesday for the deputy attorney general to remain in his post despite reports that Rosenstein discussed invoking the 25th Amendment last year to seek the president’s removal from office.
“My preference would be to keep (Rosenstein), and let him finish out,” Trump told reporters following a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, apparently referring to Rosenstein’s oversight of the ongoing investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
Trump said that Rosenstein has denied making any reference to invoking the 25th Amendment first reported last week in The New York Times.
“He said he did not say it; he said he does not believe that. Nobody in this room believes it,” Trump said.
In his capacity at the Justice Department, Rosenstein has managed the Russia investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller, who also is reviewing whether Trump sought to obstruct the inquiry last year by firing FBI Director James Comey.
Some Democratic lawmakers have accused Trump of seeking Rosenstein’s removal as part of a plan to shut down the Russia investigation.
“You know, I’ve called it a witch-hunt,” Trump said Wednesday, referring to the Mueller probe. “And it is a witch-hunt.”
Trump and his allies have criticized Rosenstein’s performance in office, though some supporters have also warned the president not to fire the deputy attorney general because of the potential political fallout.
Allies such as Fox News host Sean Hannity have accused FBI of leaking the damaging information on Rosenstein in the hope that Trump would fire him, setting off another firestorm just weeks before elections that will determine political control of Congress.
House Speaker Paul Ryan reacts as Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein prepares for a face-to-face showdown Thursday with President Donald Trump, there are indications he won’t be fired, but a voluntary resignation isn’t out of the question. (Sept. 26)
Rosenstein’s meeting with Trump was to come just days after his hold on the job appeared to be slipping away. On Monday, the deputy attorney general was summoned to a meeting at the White House where he expected to be dismissed.
Questions have swirled around Rosenstein since the Times published its report, which also indicated that that Rosenstein suggested wearing a wire to gather evidence of the president’s erratic behavior following the dismissal of Comey.
Rosenstein, who has repeatedly denied the reports, recounting the tumultuous period when the White House was plunged into chaos following Comey’s firing.
As part of his oversight role, Rosenstein has authority to dismiss Mueller. But he has consistently voiced strong support for his work.
“The special counsel is not an unguided missile,” Rosenstein said in a March interview with USA TODAY. “I don’t believe there is any justification at this point for terminating the special counsel.”
During television interviews this week, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders declined to speculate on what Trump might do, saying she did not want to get ahead of the meeting with Rosenstein.
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