Washington D.C., USA : Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and President Trump had a conversation amid reports that Rosenstein may leave his post. Because Mr. Trump is at UNGA, he and the deputy AG will meet on Thursday, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders says.
On Monday, Rosenstein was at the White House, meeting with White House chief of staff John Kelly and then attending a previously scheduled Cabinet meeting.
President Trump : “I spoke with Rod [Rosenstein] today and we will have a meeting on Thursday when I get back to the White House.”
Should Rosenstein resign or be fired, oversight of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe would be passed to Solicitor General Noel Francisco, according to the Justice Department. It’s possible President Trump would use the Vacancies Reform Act to appoint a new acting deputy attorney general.
Mr. Trump left open the possibility of relieving Rosenstein of his duties in an interview with Geraldo Rivera.
“I don’t want to comment on it. I don’t want to comment on it until I get all the facts. I haven’t gotten all the facts,” the president said in the radio interview that aired Monday. “But certainly it’s being looked at in terms of what took place, if anything took place, and I’ll make a determination sometime later.”
The president has also expressed frustration with Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Mr. Trump blames Sessions for recusing himself in the Russia investigation, which is why Rosenstein is in charge of the probe. Mr. Trump has lamented that, “I don’t have an attorney general,” and has largely declined to comment as to whether he will oust Sessions eventually.
The chances of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein leaving his job or being fired appeared to be fading early Monday afternoon, after a source familiar with his status said he never offered his resignation, and only talked about it after a report from last week said Rosenstein was trying to orchestrate President Trump’s removal from office.
The source said as of noon Monday, Rosenstein was still the Justice Department’s No. 2 heading into a previously scheduled White House meeting at noon — and the odds he would actually leave his position by day’s end were slim.
A report from Axios early Monday morning said Rosenstein offered his resignation, and others said he was expecting to be fired at the White House on Monday. But the source told the Washington Examiner that Rosenstein and White House chief of staff John Kelly spoke over the weekend and though resignation was discussed, Rosenstein never formally offered his.
According to the White House, Rosenstein and Trump spoke Monday in an “extended convesation” about the New York Times report, as the president is in New York for the United Nations General Assembly. The two will meet in person on Thursday in Washington, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.
Last week, the New York Times reported that Rosenstein discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office, and considered wearing a device to record the president. Rosenstein rejected that report, but many conservatives said the story was enough to prompt Trump to fire him.
That speculation led to several conflicting reports Monday that alternatively said Rosenstein was fired, that he was expecting to be fired, or that Rosenstein was expected to resign. Others speculated that Rosenstein might be clearing the air with the White House, although the source said that already happened.
Rosenstein, a Republican appointed by Trump, oversees special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, and his removal would raise immediate questions about who succeeds him and who oversees the Mueller probe. Solicitor General Noel Francisco is the next Senate-confirmed Justice Department official in line, meaning he would likely take over Mueller’s investigation immediately after Rosenstein’s departure, assuming he is not appointed acting deputy attorney general.
If Rosenstein resigned and Francisco were appointed acting deputy attorney general, then the assistant attorney general in charge of the Office of Leagl Counsel, Steven Engel, would take over Mueller’s investigation, according to a Justice Department memo.
Trump has railed against the Justice Department for the Russia investigation, though most of that ire is directed at Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions’ recusal from the Russia investigation opened the door for Rosenstein to appoint Mueller.
Fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, whose memos suggested Rosenstein considered secretly recording Trump, said he was concerned if Rosenstein were fired.
“To be 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,” said McCabe in a statement.
EARLIER : Rosenstein Discussed Recording Trump, Invoking 25th Amendment – Reports
U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is in the spotlight after media reports that he suggested using a wire to secretly record President Donald Trump and invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein suggested secretly recording President Donald Trump and discussed invoking the 25th Amendment, FBI memos say.
Rosenstein talked about secretly recording the president using a wire in May 2017, memos written by then-acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe and FBI lawyer Lisa Page said, according to a Washington Post report. Rosenstein also brought up the 25th Amendment, which allows a president to be removed from office when no longer able to discharge duties.
The revelations, first reported in The New York Times, suggested Rosenstein was concerned in spring 2017 over a memo he wrote about then-FBI director James Comey, which was critical of his handling of Hillary Clinton’s email investigation, that Trump used to rationalize firing Comey.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein sharply refuted a New York Times story that says he suggested recording President Trump to show the turmoil inside the White House and talked about recruiting some in the cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to declare Mr. Trump unfit and remove him.
“The New York Times’s story is inaccurate and factually incorrect,” he said in a statement. “I will not further comment on a story based on anonymous sources who are obviously biased against the department and are advancing their own personal agenda. But let me be clear about this: Based on my personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment.”
Rosenstein issued an updated statement saying he “never pursued or authorized recording the President and any suggestion that I have ever advocated for the removal of the President is absolutely false.”
Rosenstein, as deputy attorney general, oversees special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether the president and his associates played a role in that effort.
Friday evening at a Springfield, Mo., rally Trump weighed in on how he felt about the FBI in light of the news.
“Look at what’s being exposed at the Department of Justice and the FBI. We have great people in the Department of Justice … but we have some real bad ones,” Trump said. “You see what’s happening at the FBI, they’re all gone, they’re all gone. But there’s a lingering stench and we’re going to get rid of that, too.”
In a separate statement, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said “the individual behind this piece has chosen to deceive, rather than support, the duly elected President of the United States.”
“This coward should do the right thing and resign,” Sanders added.
The 25th Amendment is a way, other than impeachment, provided by the Constitution for power to be taken away from a sitting president.
The law provided an answer to painful questions posed by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. The Constitution is clear that if a president dies or is killed, the vice president takes over.
But what happens if a president is grievously wounded? What if he or she is mentally incapacitated and can’t continue doing the job responsibly?
There was no legal way for the duties of the office to be discharged by anybody else, so the government would be paralyzed.
So the nation adopted the 25th Amendment, which was introduced in 1965 and ultimately ratified two years later. The text of the amendment is available here from the National Archives.
What the amendment spells out is a procedure by which members of the Cabinet can agree to notify Congress that they do not believe a president can carry out his or her duties. The officials could send a letter to Congress explaining why and, if Congress agrees by a two-thirds vote of both chambers, lawmakers could make the vice president “Acting President,” under Section 4 of the 25th Amendment.
But the president would not be taken out of office.
The original president actually could try to challenge this investiture of power in the vice president.
It is a sort of nightmare scenario that scholars describe as contested removal, in which a president would object to the idea that he’s been determined to be unwell.
And at that point, then Congress has three weeks to decide the issue. And you can just sort of imagine. It’s kind of amazing to step back and think about what that would actually be like in practice, that you would have Congress actively, openly, publicly discussing the question of whether or not the president of the United States was mentally fit to return to the presidency.
This provision in law set up this situation for a reason: Suppose a president was badly hurt in an accident and was incapacitated for several months. The 25th Amendment ensures the vice president could lawfully carry out the duties of the office for that time. Then if the president recovered, he or she could take back over and serve the rest of the term without having had to resign.
The requirement for two-thirds majorities in Congress is designed to keep this process from being used for simple political reasons and ensure that Congress and the executive branch use the 25th Amendment only in situations — like the hypothetical accident — in which it is obvious to all this is necessary.
At the same time it’s possible that a president might not agree that all this was appropriate.
There are other checks and balances in this process.
The law says that an incapacitated president can resume the duties of the office “unless the vice president and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to [legislative leaders] their written declaration that the president is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”
That’s an important detail: If a 25th Amendment process were triggered, Congress could appoint a “body,” or a board of medical experts, or other people, to give an opinion about the fitness of the president.
That might add legitimacy to all this in the midst of a crisis: The leaders of the Cabinet and the Congress could officially cite the diagnosis of a psychiatrist or other specialists.
Democrats who oppose Trump have introduced legislation that would create such a panel at least twice since Trump has been in office, Osnos told Gross — although because Republicans are the majority in the House and the Senate, the bills haven’t gone anywhere.
Trump scoffs at all the discussion about his supposed mental health problems; he and supporters denounce what they call “Trump Derangement Syndrome” among opponents who are so alarmed they become unhinged by what he freely acknowledges is an unconventional presidency.
The 25th Amendment is different from impeachment.
Impeachment — in which the House would introduce articles against the president and act as a grand jury, voting whether or not he would then stand trial in the Senate — removes a president altogether if convicted.
Congress could elect to use it in addition to the 25th Amendment in a crisis: Once a president had been sidelined and his or her power given to the vice president, Congress could then impeach the old president.
Washington would long have sailed off the map by that point. Although two modern presidents have faced articles of impeachment in the House, none has ever been convicted and removed from office, just as none has ever faced a 25th Amendment process.