Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s expected departure may not feel exactly like a surprising news story. There was speculation during the summer that Trump might fire Rosenstein after the FBI raided the home of Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer. What stands out at this point about the possibility of Rod Rosenstein’s leaving is the recent alternating news about his mode of departure.
First, the news came over the weekend that Rod Rosenstein was about to be fired in the aftermath of a story that appeared in The New York Times. According to the Times, after Trump’s firing of former FBI director James Comey in early 2017, Rod Rosenstein had allegedly suggested invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. Rosenstein also reportedly talked about secretly recording Trump’s conversations. Rosenstein has denied both allegations.
Later, on Monday, it was reported that Rosenstein was going to resign because he expected to be fired. He visited the White House on Monday, and met with Chief of Staff John Kelly, as well as speaking with Donald Trump, who was in New York when they spoke.
At the end of Monday, however, Rosenstein’s job was still intact. He will meet in person with Trump on Thursday, September27.
In anticipation of Rod Rosenstein’s expected departure one way or the other, is the White House trying to blur the public’s impression about whether Rosenstein was fired or whether he resigned?
Something important to remember is this, from The Atlantic: “If the president can browbeat Rosenstein into resigning—or even plausibly misrepresent the firing as a resignation—Trump gains the power to bypass the Senate confirmation process under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act. He can replace Rosenstein with any serving official previously confirmed by the Senate to any other job.”
In the summer of 2017, when Trump ordered the firing of Robert Mueller, and Don McGahn refused, some predicted that Trump would next try to fire Rod Rosenstein, who also indicated that he did not intend to fire Mueller. This, some said, would remove the block (Rosenstein) to ending the Russia investigation.
If Donald Trump’s current chance to get rid of Rod Rosenstein plays out, Trump would be able to control who steps in at the Justice Department to run the Mueller probe. That person would have to be confirmed by the Senate, but with a Republican-dominated Senate, most of which either strongly backs Trump or has been largely sluggish, it’s likely the Trump appointee would be confirmed. That person would then direct Robert Mueller, and could effectively put an end to the investigation into Russia’s influence on the 2016 presidential election. Thursday may not only be a big day for Rod Rosenstein, it could be a fateful day for our country.
Napolitano on potential fallout if Trump fires Rosenstein | Fox News [2018-09-24]
Rod Rosenstein speaks with Trump about recent news stories, will meet Thursday | CBS News [2018-09-24]