Rosenstein's fate far from certain, White House officials say

A day after Deputy Attorney General ...

Posted: Sep 25, 2018 5:41 PM
Updated: Sep 25, 2018 5:41 PM

A day after Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's fate consumed headlines during the first day at the United Nations General Assembly, President Donald Trump sought to tamp down on talk of his domestic political crises as he addressed world leaders on Tuesday.

"I'm meeting with Rod Rosenstein Thursday," the President said as he entered UN headquarters. "And today, I'm doing other things."

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It was a reflection of how the President is working to rise above, for now, the swirl of chaos that continues to consume Washington. Trump is seeking to put on a commanding air at the annual UN gathering even as he battles a pair of controversies: the possible exit of Rosenstein, who oversees the Russia investigation, and sexual misconduct allegations against his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

On Monday, it was those stories -- and not Trump's attempts to engage world leaders on issues such as North Korea and trade -- that drew attention. The White House said Trump would put off deciding Rosenstein's fate until at least Thursday, when the two men will meet in person.

After Rosenstein's dramatic visit on Monday to the White House, where he had an unexpected speakerphone call with Trump in New York, his fate remains uncertain. But two officials said on Tuesday it would be a mistake to assume he will be ousted after his upcoming meeting with the President.

Trump's feelings about Rosenstein -- who, as the senior Justice Department official responsible for the Russia investigation, has drawn the President's ire -- are well known. So is Trump's dislike for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who he has yet to fire, due to concerns about the political fallout and the possible complications it may pose to the Russia probe.

Rosenstein could find himself in a similar position, two officials suggested: one of obvious enmity with the President, but without being fired. Like Sessions, it's almost certainly not a question of whether he gets replaced, but when. But that timing could come well after the midterm elections, the officials say.

Over the weekend, Republican allies of the President strongly urged him to hold off firing the deputy attorney general for fear it could prove politically damaging.

And Trump expressed concern -- echoed by media allies such as Fox News' Sean Hannity -- that he could be victim of a setup meant to provoke an outsized reaction.

The President, according to White House officials, hasn't made a final decision about Rosenstein. And he scheduled a face-to-face meeting with him on Thursday, which could take away at least some of the spotlight from the Kavanaugh hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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