The White House says Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general overseeing the probe into alleged collusion between Russia and US President Donald Trump, will meet Trump later this week, amid media reports that Rosenstein was about to lose his job.
President Donald Trump will meet later this week with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the White House said on Monday amid indications that Rosenstein was about to lose his job.
The meeting will be on Thursday, said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Any termination or resignation would have immediate implications for special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of possible collaboration between Russia and the Trump campaign before the 2016 election.
Rosenstein appointed Mueller and oversees his investigation.
Rosenstein and Trump, who is in New York for a UN meeting, had an extended conversation to discuss recent news stories about negative comments Rosenstein is reported to have made last year about the president, Sanders said.
Trump said he will meet Rosenstein on Thursday when he gets back from the UNGA and that he "wants to have transparency."
"We'll be meeting at the White House and we'll be determining what's going on," Trump told reporters on the sidelines of the UN gathering.
"We want to have transparency, we want to have openness, and I look forward to meeting with Rodat that time."
The deputy attorney general was reported as having discussed possibly secretly recording the president and invoking the Constitution to have the Cabinet remove him from office.
The White House statement neither confirmed nor put to rest mounting rumours that Rosenstein is on the way out.
Statement on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein: pic.twitter.com/yBgAydv9oR— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) September 24, 2018
Rosenstein still in his job
Rosenstein expected to be fired on Monday as he headed to the White House for a national security meeting on opioid abuse, the Associated Press reported, quoting an unnamed official familiar with the situation. But he left with no action taken, and the White House statement suggested he may be in his job for at least several more days.
"At the request of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, he and President Trump had an extended conversation to discuss the recent news stories," Sanders said in a statement. "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."
Solicitor General Noel Francisco, the highest-ranking Senate confirmed official below Rosenstein in the Justice Department, would take control of the Mueller investigation. A spokesman for Mueller declined to comment.
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.
Earlier on Monday, Rosenstein headed to the White House amid reports he has offered to resign in anticipation of being fired by Trump.
Rosenstein, the No. 2 Justice Department official, verbally resigned to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, Axios reported, citing an unidentified source with knowledge of the matter.
A second source told Axios that Rosenstein is "expecting to be fired" so he plans to step down.
NBC News reported that Rosenstein said he would not resign and the White House would have to fire him.
TRT World's Simon Marks has more from Washington DC.
Trump vs Justice Department
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 probe 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 departure of Rosenstein –– possibly giving Trump an opportunity to get more of a loyalist as a replacement –– would dramatically rock the probe into whether Russia colluded with the Trump campaign in his shock presidential election victory in 2016.
Under no circumstances should Rod Rosenstein resign. This would place the Mueller investigation in even greater jeopardy. Rosenstein should continue to do his job, protect the independence of the DOJ, and if the President intends to obstruct justice, force Trump to fire him.— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) September 24, 2018
'Lingering stench' at Justice Department
Just last Friday, Trump referred in a speech to supporters to a "lingering stench" at the Justice Department that he would soon eradicate.
There was widespread speculation that Trump would fire Rosenstein after a New York Times report on Friday said in 2017 he had suggested secretly recording Trump and recruiting Cabinet members to invoke a constitutional amendment to remove him from the office.
The Times said none of those proposals came to fruition.
Rosenstein denied the report as "inaccurate and factually incorrect."
Former Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe said on Monday if Rosenstein leaves his post, it puts the special counsel's Russia investigation "at risk."
Rod Rosenstein, who has either resigned or not, or been fired or not, or is on the way to the White House to resign or be fired, or not, is apparently in a state of quantum (un)employment.— Peter Suderman (@petersuderman) September 24, 2018
Summoned to White House?
MSNBC and CNN reported Rosenstein was summoned for a meeting at the White House on Monday.
The move comes just six weeks ahead of the November 6 congressional elections, and could become an explosive political issue as Trump's fellow Republicans try to keep control of Congress.
Trump has regularly dismissed the investigation as a "witch hunt".