President Donald Trump signaled Wednesday he is leaning toward keeping Rod Rosenstein on the job, after an explosive report alleged that the deputy attorney general had suggested secretly recording the president last year.
“I would much prefer keeping Rod Rosenstein,” Trump said at press conference on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday evening.
“Many people said I had the right to absolutely fire him. He said he did not say it. He said he does not believe that. And nobody in this room believes it, by the way,” Trump said.
Trump also said he may delay the meeting with Rosenstein, scheduled for Thursday, so it does not distract from the confirmation proceedings of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who is set to testify on Capitol Hill along with one of the women accusing him of sexual misconduct in high school.
Rosenstein has been under the microscope since The New York Times reported Friday that he proposed secretly taping Trump in spring 2017 and drumming up support among Cabinet officials to invoke the 25th Amendment to force Trump from office for being unfit. Rosenstein has challenged the report, calling it “inaccurate” and “factually incorrect.”
Since, speculation has mounted that Trump could fire Rosenstein. On Monday, conflicting reports emerged that Rosenstein expected to be fired or prepared to resign over the developments. On Monday, the White House announced that Trump and Rosenstein would meet Thursday to discuss the news reports.
Some of Trump’s allies have argued that the president should fire Rosenstein if the allegations are true. Others, including many Democrats on Capitol Hill, have warned against it, pointing to the damaging implications for the Russia investigation, which Rosenstein is overseeing at the Justice Department.
Trump left the door open to firing Rosenstein on Wednesday, but hinted that he believed his denials.
“I’m talking to him, we’ve had a good talk. He said he never said it. He said he doesn’t believe it. He said he has a lot of respect for me. He was very nice, and we’ll see,” Trump said.
Trump also repeated his oft-used phrase that there was “no collusion,” a reference to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Trump has repeatedly criticized Rosenstein and his boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, over the investigation, which he views as an illegitimate “witch hunt” against him.
“There was no collusion, there was no obstruction, unless you call obstruction the fact that I fight back. I do fight back,” Trump said.
“I’m going to meet with him tomorrow. I may call Rod tonight or tomorrow and ask for a little bit of a delay in the meeting. I don’t want to do anything that gets in the way of this very important Supreme Court pick,” Trump added.