President Donald Trump and Rod Rosenstein have postponed until next week Thursday’s highly anticipated meeting to hash out the fate of the embattled deputy attorney general.
In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the two didn’t want to distract from the Senate’s monumental hearing Thursday morning examining sexual assault allegations made against Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.
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“They do not want to do anything to interfere with the hearing,” Sanders told reporters.
Trump and Rosenstein spoke earlier Thursday to rearrange their plans, Sanders added.
The meeting between the president and the No. 2 Justice official who supervises special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation was sparked by a New York Times story published last week that said Rosenstein had discussed wiretapping the president and mused about invoking the 25th Amendment to dispose of Trump during a tumultuous period early in the Republican’s administration.
Rosenstein has disputed the accuracy of the article, and sources familiar with his remarks insisted they were made in jest. Still, Rosenstein’s DOJ tenure has been on edge for months with both the president and his Republican allies in Congress. Last Friday’s Times’ story only propelled more speculation he would either resign or soon be fired.
The prospect of Rosenstein’s exit has raised questions about who would assume oversight of Mueller’s probe into Russian election meddling and whether the Trump campaign conspired on those efforts.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday in New York, Trump said he was leaning against ousting the longtime federal prosecutor.
“I would certainly prefer not doing that,” he said of firing Rosenstein.
Last weekend and on Monday, Rosenstein discussed his future with with several White House officials, including chief of staff John Kelly, eventually setting up Thursday’s date with Trump after the president returned from the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York.
But Trump on Wednesday appeared loath to create a split screen moment of Trump and Rosenstein meeting at the same time as the Senate committee hearing with Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused the judge of sexual assault when they were both in high school.
“I don’t want to do anything that’s going to conflict with that,” the president said Wednesday when he first hinted at the delay.