(CN) – Seeking to tamp down on widespread reports that Rod Rosenstein would be fired today, the White House announced Monday the deputy attorney general will meet with President Donald Trump upon his return from the meeting of the U.N. General Assembly in New York.
The meeting, slated for Thursday, was scheduled at Rosenstein’s request, according to a statement from White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
“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. “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, D.C.”
Rosenstein reportedly told associates he expected to be fired during a meeting Monday with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly in the wake of an explosive New York Times article last week that said he proposed wearing a wire to record a meeting with Trump.
The Friday article also said Rosenstein had discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office after the president fired former FBI Director James Comey in May 2017.
Rosenstein fiercely disputed the Times’ account, while other officials characterized the suggestion of wearing a wire as “a joke.”
As multiple media reports of Rosenstein’s removal began to circulate on Monday, it sent shockwaves through the Justice Department and immediately raised questions about the supervision of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and possible collaboration between Russia and the Trump campaign.
Rosenstein has overseen Mueller’s investigation. If Trump ultimately decides to fire him on Thursday, U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco is expected to take over supervising the probe.
Francisco, a former partner at the Jones Day law firm in Washington, is the top Supreme Court litigator for the Trump administration.
He clerked for Judge J. Michael Luttig, a conservative member of the Fourth Circuit, and then the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. He was later an associate White House counsel in the George W. Bush administration and also worked in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel for two years during the Bush administration.
On Monday, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe responded to the persistent rumors of Rosenstein’s imminent departure. “There is nothing more important to the integrity of law enforcement and the rule of law than protecting the investigation of Special Counsel Mueller,” McCabe said.
“I sacrificed personally and professionally to help put the investigation on a proper course and subsequently made every effort to protect it,” McCabe continued. “To me clear, I had no role in providing information of any kind to the media stories about events following Director Comey’s firing.
“If the rumors of Deputy AG’s Rosenstein’s departure are true, I am deeply concerned that it puts that investigation at risk,” McCabe concluded.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., also expressed his concern, taking to Twitter to say that “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,” Schiff said.
Senator Kamala Harris also weighed in. “The Senate must pass legislation to protect special counsel Robert Mueller TODAY,” the California Democrat tweeted. “Republican leaders must allow it to be voted on. We can no longer afford to wait. This is a matter of preserving the rule of law.”
In an interview with Geraldo Rivera that aired Monday morning on the “Fox & Friends” television show, Trump said he was still looking at what, if anything, to do about Rosenstein’s reported actions.
“He was hired by Jeff Sessions,” Trump said.
As for Rosenstein’s future, Trump said: “We will make a determination. It’s certainly a very sad story.”
The president is reported to have contemplated firing Rosenstein in April after FBI raids of the office and home of the president’s longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, who has since pleaded guilty to several felonies and taken part in hours of interviews with Mueller.
But the latest New York Times report came at a particularly tense time in the White House. Early last month the newspaper published an unsigned opinion piece by a senior official in the administration who wrote that there was a group of officials working to safeguard the country from the president’s most dangerous impulses.
This story is developing …