This Week in Trump-Russia News: When will Trump fire Rod Rosenstein — or will he?
Rod Rosenstein may once again be on the chopping block.
The deputy attorney general, who has been under siege from President Donald Trump and his allies for months, was the subject of an explosive New York Times report that claimed he had discussed plans to oust Trump from office shortly after assuming the reins of the Russia probe in 2017.
It was a stunning report, and one that could be used by Trump to justify firing the deputy attorney general — a move that could have huge repercussions on the Russia probe.
Here’s what you need to know about the Rosenstein revelations — and how it could impact special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Rosenstein proposed recording Trump
According to the Times, Rosenstein in 2017 proposed wearing a wire to secretly record Trump and expose the chaos he was wreaking on the White House.
He also discussed recruiting members of the president’s Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment and declare him unfit to serve.
The reported proposal was made shortly after Trump fired James Comey, a move the president justified by citing a critical letter Rosenstein had written about the former FBI director’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.
None of Rosenstein’s proposals appear to have been acted upon, and he has challenged elements of the Times’ reporting.
Trump hints at Rosenstein firing
But Trump quickly latched onto the Times’ scoop, implying during a campaign rally in Springfield, Missouri, on Friday that Rosenstein’s days are numbered.
“Look at what’s going on,” Trump told supporters. “You’ve got some real bad ones — you see what’s happened at the FBI. They’re all gone. They’re all gone. But there’s a lingering stench, and we’re gonna get rid of that, too.”
Trump has long been rumored to be considering firing Rosenstein, and has attacked him publicly on numerous occasions as part of a broader fight with federal law enforcement over the Russia probe, which he considers a “witch hunt.”
He has also warred with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who may also have some of that so-called “lingering stench” on him. He’s been angry with his attorney general for more than a year over his decision to recuse himself from matters related to the Russia investigation.
“I don’t have an attorney general,” Trump said in the interview, leaving the door open to sacking Sessions. “It’s very sad.”
Hannity warns Trump of Rosenstein “setup”
But some of Trump’s allies, including Fox News’ Sean Hannity, have urged Trump to tread carefully in the wake of the Rosenstein report.
“I have a message for the president tonight,” Hannity said on his program Friday evening. “Under zero circumstances should the president fire anybody.”
In his address to Trump, Hannity suggested that the Times piece was a “setup” meant to trigger the president to fire Rosenstein — a move that could carry significant political blowback.
“They’re hoping he gets mad, that he gets sick and tired of it and that they can turn this politically into their version of a Friday Night Massacre,” Hannity said.
Trump backtracks on Russia document declassification
By Saturday afternoon, it wasn’t clear what, if anything, Trump would do about Rosenstein.
While he alluded to the Times report at his Friday rally in Missouri, he hadn’t yet issued any tweets on the matter, as he’s done with other developments on the Russia front.
But it’s likely he’ll use the revelations in his broadsides against the Department of Justice and FBI.
Earlier this week, he announced that he would declassify DOJ and FBI documents related to the Russia investigation — a decision the White House said in a statement was made in the interest of “transparency.”
But after officials expressed concern that doing so “may have a perceived impact on the Russia probe” and unnamed “key Allies” cautioned him against it, he announced in a pair of tweets that the inspector general would review the material before he released it.
But he implied that he could still make the documents public on his own if he feels the inspector general doesn’t move quickly enough.
“In the end I can always declassify if it proves necessary,” Trump tweeted Friday. “Speed is very important to me — and everyone!”