When Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, headed to the White House on Monday morning, he was ready to resign and convinced — wrongly, it turned out — that President Trump was about to fire him. Top Justice Department aides scrambled to draft a statement about who would succeed him.
“I’m meeting with Rod Rosenstein on Thursday when I get back from all of these meetings,” Trump said. “And we’ll be meeting at the White House, and we’ll be determining what’s going on. We want to have transparency, we want to have openness and I look forward to meeting with Rod at that time.”
remarks capped off a tumultuous morning in Washington when it was, at times, unclear if the deputy attorney general still had his job.
By the afternoon, Mr. Rosenstein was back at his Pennsylvania Avenue office seven blocks away, still employed as the second-in-command at the Justice Department and, for the time being at least, still in charge of the Russia investigation.
What happened in between was a confusing drama in which buzzy news reports of Mr. Rosenstein’s imminent departure set in motion a dash to the White House, an offer to resign, Capitol Hill speculation about Mr. Rosenstein’s successor and, finally, a reprieve from an out-of-town president.
On Saturday, Rosenstein and Kelly spoke, but the two decided to work out the details on Monday, according to the sources — explaining that Rosenstein wanted to control the timing and the White House wasn’t pressing for it because they were dealing with the Kavanaugh situation over the weekend.
Kelly told associates on Monday that Rosenstein had offered to resign Friday and he had accepted. Yet another source familiar with Rosenstein’s thinking told CNN that he expected to be fired by Trump on Monday.
The flurry of speculation Monday over Rosenstein’s fate prompted a swift reaction on Capitol Hill.
California Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said on Twitter that Rosenstein should force Trump to fire him rather than resign.
“Rosenstein should continue to do his job, protect the independence of the DOJ, and if the President intends to obstruct justice, force Trump to fire him,” Schiff tweeted.
New York Rep. Jerry Nadler, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, said to CNN’s Kate Bolduan earlier Monday that the developments were “very upsetting” and called it “another step in the unfolding, slow-motion Saturday Night Massacre” — a reference to a pivotal Nixon-era episode that precipitated former President Richard Nixon’s resignation.