Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who expected to be fired by President Donald Trump, has submitted his resignation, according to Axios. Apparently, he verbally resigned to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. Nothing surrounding Rosenstein is as it seems, though, and other sources contradict the Axios report. Statements from both the White House and the Department of Justice confirm that Rosenstein continues in his role, at the present time.
Much is already being made of Rosenstein’s decision – which has not been publicly confirmed – but his departure would be seen as either a victory for the president or the beginning of a serious crisis within the federal government, depending on one’s political perspective.
Speculation and Rumor
Rosenstein’s tenure as D.A.G. has been shrouded in speculation, criticism, and rumor. The president’s supporters see the Justice Department number two as a ‘deep state’ operative, working to undermine the Trump agenda. There is substantial justification for such a view. At the same time, it should be remembered that Rosenstein was appointed during the Trump presidency and that he has been very careful to steer clear of political statements – at least, in public.
The president has never openly threatened, or even suggested, that he would fire the D.A.G. although Rosenstein has always been close to the center of Trump’s frustration over the Russia investigation. The D.A.G. is due to meet with Trump at the White House on Thursday, September 27.
By default, Rosenstein found himself in the position of overseeing the special counsel investigation into alleged collusion between Russian officials and the Trump presidential campaign team. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself entirely from the matter but, ironically, was far less involved in the Russia conspiracy theory than Rosenstein himself, who had signed off on an affidavit for an FBI surveillance warrant, issued by a FISA court and used to spy on Trump campaign volunteer advisor Carter Page.
Of still more concern is the fact that Robert Mueller was appointed to investigate, among other things, whether Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey amounted to obstruction of justice, even though Rosenstein himself was instrumental in Comey’s firing.
The Deputy Attorney General has publicly clashed with House Republicans over the Justice Department’s reluctance to produce documents related to the Carter Page FISA warrant, as well as other documents and communications relating to the suspicious circumstances surrounding the opening of investigations aimed at the Trump presidential campaign and continued after the president took office.
The New York Times recently published what increasingly appears to be an entirely fabricated story alleging that Rosenstein had openly discussed the idea of wearing a ‘wire’ to record conversations with the president and had suggested attempting to recruit senior officials to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove Trump from office. As is typical of the ever-more discredited Times, no verifiable sources for these allegations were presented. Rosenstein himself and several cabinet officials have dismissed the story as ridiculous. Many have speculated that the purpose of the story was to provoke the president into firing Rosenstein which would be seen by many as an attempt to derail the special counsel investigation.
Whatever one’s opinion of Rosenstein, it is beyond dispute that the man is sharp-witted, extremely experienced and far too professional and discrete to engage in something as reckless as trying to envoke the 25th Amendment with no justification for doing so. Such a move would amount to an act of sedition.
As for the idea that he talked about wearing a wire to record the president; Rosenstein strikes one as entirely capable of an almost dangerous level of sarcasm but reports that he suggested doing so, albeit in jest, still appear to stretch the bounds of credulity. For someone in his position to even joke about such a thing would seem out of character for one as careful and as shrewd as Rod Rosenstein.
The Future of Trump’s DAG
Reportedly, Rosenstein and the president have already discussed the contents of the story and one might have thought that, were the D.A.G. inclined to resign over it – or were the president inclined to fire him – this would already have happened. At the U.N. Monday, President Trump confirmed to reporters that he had spoken to Rosenstein and would be meeting with him on September 27. Trump gave a distinct impression that their upcoming meeting is not likely to end with Rosenstein leaving his post, though he did not verbalize his intentions, one way or the other.
For Trump, there is really no upside to firing Rosenstein – not at this time, at least. Were the Deputy Attorney General to resign, the president would most probably avoid the political repercussions that would arise from a firing. If Rosenstein did resign, it could be seen as a sign that the special counsel investigation has, in fact, just about run its course. If anything, Sessions’ deputy would likely choose to set up his resignation for after Mueller concludes his probe. Rosenstein does not seem like the quitting type, however, and he will likely remain in his current position and, it seems likely, continue to secretly chuckle at the theories, rumors and bizarre tales swirling around him.