US President Donald Trump has said he would “certainly prefer not” to fire deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein and that he may delay a meeting with the Justice Department’s second highest-ranking official.
Mr Trump said Mr Rosenstein denied making remarks first attributed to him in a New York Times report, including that he had discussed possibly secretly recording the president and using the US constitution’s 25th Amendment to remove him from office.
“I would much prefer keeping Rod Rosenstein,” Mr Trump said at a news conference in New York. “He said he did not say it. He said he does not believe that.”
Mr Trump added: “My preference would be to keep him and to let him finish up.”
In suggesting that he might postpone Thursday’s meeting, Mr Trump said he is focused on the extraordinary Senate committee hearing set for the same day with Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and a woman who has accused Mr Kavanaugh of sexual assault.
Any delay in the meeting would prolong the uncertainty of Mr Rosenstein’s status.
Mr Rosenstein headed to the White House on Monday morning preparing to be fired and had discussed a possible resignation over the weekend with White House officials. But after meeting with chief of staff John Kelly and speaking by phone with Mr Trump, he got a reprieve with the meeting scheduled for Thursday.
Since then, the White House has sought to talk down anxiety that Mr Rosenstein would be fired. White House officials called senators on Monday to say Mr Trump had said he would not be firing Mr Rosenstein at the meeting.
Aides have advised Mr Trump against taking any extreme actions ahead of the midterm elections with his party’s majorities in Congress already under threat.