President Trump has said he will not fire Rod Rosenstein ahead of showdown talks between the pair on Air Force One over news reports that the deputy attorney general plotted against him.
Tensions between Trump and Rosenstein, who were due to meet 11 days ago, appear to have eased but the deputy attorney general will have to respond to accusations he spoke about secretly recording Trump and invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office.
As he was leaving the White House before noon Monday en route to board Air Force One to fly to Orlando, reporters asked Trump if he had plans to fire Rosenstein. "No, I don't," he replied.
With Attoney General Jeff Sessions recusing himself from the Russia investigation, Rosenstein, the number two at the Justice Department, oversees Robert Mueller's probe into alleged collusion during the 2016 presidential election.
Trump said the two will be "talking on the plane" and that they "actually have a very good relationship.” “I didn’t know Rod before, but I got to know him and I get along very well with him," Trump added.
Trump is scheduled to speak at the International Association of Chiefs of Police annual conference in the early afternoon.
A Justice Department official confirmed earlier Monday that Rosenstein planned to travel to Florida alongside the president for his speech, but did not share an agenda for any meeting.
The two will discuss a New York Times report from late last month that alleged Rosenstein suggested secretly recording his conversations with Trump in the days after Trump fired then-FBI Director James Comey in May 2017. Rosenstein denied the report, which alleged he also brought up invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.
Following the report, Rosenstein offered to resign to top White House officials, but Trump and the administration were preoccupied by the fight to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, and he ultimately remained in his position.
At a press conference from the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, Trump said that he would not like to fire Rosenstein, and the two were set to meet later that week in late September.
But the meeting was again delayed, and last week it was pushed again due to Kavanaugh drama.
Should Rosenstein quit or be fired from the Justice Department, there would likely be extreme backlash, a disadvantage the Trump administration and Republicans would prefer to avoid ahead of November’s midterm elections.
Rosenstein oversees special counsel Robert Mueller and his ongoing investigation into Russian election interference and possible connections to the Trump campaign.
Though Trump has lodged criticisms at Rosenstein, it is his boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who gets the sharpest of barbs. Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation in March 2017, paving the way for the appointment of Mueller.
Should Sessions be fired, his replacement would take over Mueller oversight, so long as that person is Senate-confirmed.