President Donald Trump hinted that he no longer has confidence in Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein Friday, after the House Select Committee on Intelligence memo on alleged FISA abuses suggested he authorized surveillance of a former Trump aide based on campaign opposition research.
Trump replied cryptically when asked in the Oval Office if he still has confidence in Rosenstein, saying only “You figure that one out.”
The exchange came shortly after the president lambasted current and former leaders of the Justice Department and the FBI on Twitter, alleging senior leadership politicized the investigative process on matters relating to the 2016 presidential campaign.
Whatever the president’s frustrations with the deputy attorney general, firing him is wrought with political peril. Rosenstein supervises special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, given Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal. As such, his dismissal would likely be seen as comprising Mueller’s ongoing inquiry.
Trump has expressed suspicion of Rosenstein before. He noted in a July 2017 interview with The New York Times that Rosenstein is from Baltimore, Md. — a heavily Democratic city — so as to imply that he has liberal sympathies.
“There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any,” Trump told TheNYT in July 2017. Rosenstein is in fact from Philadelphia, Pa., though he is a longtime resident of Maryland.
White House spokesman Raj Shah walked back the president’s comments late Friday, telling CNN that Trump has no immediate plans to sack Rosenstein.
“No changes are going to be made at the DOJ. We fully expect Rosenstein to continue on,” Shah said.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was evasive when asked if Trump distrusts the deputy attorney general, during a press briefing Monday.
“When the president no longer has confidence in someone, you’ll know,” she said.
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