President Donald Trump defused the tension building around a closely watched meeting with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein slated for Thursday, suggesting that the No. 2 at the Justice Department may not lose his job after all.
“My preference would be to keep him,” Trump said at a news conference in New York Wednesday when asked if he planned to fire Rosenstein. “I would certainly prefer not doing it.”
He went on to indicate that he may postpone the meeting in order to avoid “competing” with his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s high-stakes hearing on Capitol Hill Thursday.
“I don’t want to do anything that gets in the way,” Trump said.
But a potential delay or wholesale cancellation of the Rosenstein meeting goes beyond competing with Kavanaugh. It could be seen as a sign that Trump has opted to follow the a chorus of advice — from his lawyers to Fox News’ Sean Hannity — not to oust Rosenstein, the man who oversees special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
‘He was very nice’
Last week’s stunning reports of Rosenstein’s musings about wearing a wire to surreptitiously record the President and ousting him from office last year immediately raised questions about his job security, but the President appeared unperturbed Wednesday.
“We’ve had a good talk, he said he never said it, he said he had a lot of respect for me,” Trump said, adding that Rosenstein was “very nice” and a “member of the Trump administration.”
All week, senior White House officials had predicted Rosenstein would remain in his position until at least the midterm election in November, if not through the end of the year — a welcome relief for those who have the President’s ear and have reminded him of the political migraine that could result if he fired Rosenstein so close to the election.
So far, those close to Trump claim he’s been uncharacteristically calm about the situation. When he spoke to Rosenstein on Monday, Trump did not raise his voice — instead, he was measured and said he would rather talk in person Thursday, a senior official told CNN. Behind the scenes, some had even advised him not to do Thursday’s meeting at all.