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Rosenstein's tumultuous day capped with lingering suspense

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's SUV pulled into the White House complex shortly before 11 a.m. -- a...

Posted: Sep 25, 2018 11:49 AM
Updated: Sep 25, 2018 11:49 AM

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's SUV pulled into the White House complex shortly before 11 a.m. -- about 20 minutes after the first headline blared the dramatic news.

Rosenstein was scheduled to meet with chief of staff John Kelly before attending a previously scheduled national security meeting with other senior officials at the White House. But he didn't expect to actually attend that second meeting.

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Indeed Rosenstein had already offered Kelly his resignation on Friday after The New York Times reported that he had suggested secretly recording President Donald Trump and discussed an effort to oust Trump from office via the 25th Amendment. And as he pulled up to the White House on Monday morning -- still the deputy attorney general, his resignation pending -- he expected he would leave a private citizen, fired by President Donald Trump.

Instead, about two hours later, Rosenstein clambered back into his official SUV and returned to the Justice Department having emerged, unscathed, from his two meetings at the White House and a phone call with the President.

Minutes before, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders had released a statement that delayed a decision on his fate until Thursday, so that Rosenstein and Trump -- who is in New York attending the United Nations General Assembly -- can meet in person.

"I'm meeting with Rod Rosenstein on Thursday when I get back from all of these meetings," Trump said later in the day. "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."

Chaotic morning

The President's comments, at least for Monday, put a cork in the bubbling cascade of confusion, tumult and anxiety that had quickly swept the capital, promptly leading to discussions about the fate of the special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation -- which Rosenstein oversees -- and drawing comparisons to Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey, which triggered Mueller's appointment.

Washington's political class and the public were not alone to experience the whiplash. Rosenstein, too, found his day turning out much differently than he expected.

Rosenstein had miscalculated how Trump would react to The New York Times report, overestimating how angry Trump would be, a senior administration official said.

After reading the Times report, Rosenstein expected Trump would be furious and swiftly fire him. His resignation on Friday was an attempt to pre-empt that. And when he arrived at the White House on Monday morning with his resignation not formally accepted, he expected he would be fired.

But while Trump asked associates in the hours after the Times report was published if he should "just fire him," he was also skeptical about the report given it was largely drawn from memoranda written by FBI officials including former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, whom Trump despises and has long believed is untrustworthy.

And Trump's relationship with Rosenstein -- a man Trump publicly and privately disparaged for appointing Mueller -- had also begun to improve in recent months.

Reports rampant

But reports of Rosenstein's resignation spread wildly on Monday morning.

Kelly had conveyed to associates over the weekend that Rosenstein had offered his resignation on Friday and that he had accepted it, a senior White House official said. Those close to the White House and others close to Rosenstein quickly sought to stress competing narratives that Rosenstein had resigned or that he was to be fired, to each side's benefit.

As Monday drew in, senior White House staff discussed Rosenstein's future at length, contemplating different scenarios. The President, meanwhile, was much more focused on the drama surrounding his Supreme Court nominee, one person close to him said.

But he still listened and absorbed the views of his advisers, including those such as the Fox News host Sean Hannity who warned that the Times report was a "set up" meant to provoke him to respond by firing Rosenstein. Trump watched Hannity make that argument on Air Force One on Friday evening and asked people about it afterward.

Even as Rosenstein remained in his post by the end of the day, the day's saga prompted Democratic lawmakers to renew their calls for legislation that would protect Mueller's investigation, which is probing Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether Trump has obstructed justice.

And the specter of a potential firing when Trump returns to Washington still hung over Trump's administration, with some believing Trump could still take the action upon his return.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 944708

Reported Deaths: 15343
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1287051987
Lake634321097
Allen53759760
Hamilton43980448
St. Joseph42010590
Elkhart33651491
Vanderburgh30486449
Tippecanoe26872250
Johnson23685417
Hendricks22354341
Porter21799347
Clark17493231
Madison17439384
Vigo16209284
Monroe14515191
LaPorte14350239
Delaware14134222
Howard13921273
Kosciusko11448135
Hancock10886166
Warrick10715177
Bartholomew10589169
Floyd10471206
Wayne10020226
Grant9165204
Morgan8895160
Boone8417111
Dubois7748123
Dearborn764990
Henry7648130
Noble7435101
Marshall7384128
Cass7209117
Lawrence6999153
Shelby6616111
Jackson659186
Gibson6177107
Harrison606286
Huntington603195
Montgomery5830105
DeKalb578391
Knox5506104
Miami545788
Putnam540568
Clinton535965
Whitley526553
Steuben499768
Wabash486292
Jasper481860
Jefferson472892
Ripley456077
Adams445568
Daviess4209108
Scott407965
White392957
Clay392857
Greene390592
Wells388784
Decatur385996
Fayette377278
Posey361541
Jennings354356
Washington333747
LaGrange323575
Spencer319536
Fountain317955
Randolph314889
Sullivan308449
Owen284863
Starke281464
Fulton280054
Orange276859
Jay256338
Perry252552
Carroll244929
Franklin240538
Rush235630
Vermillion234450
Parke221020
Tipton210555
Pike209539
Blackford169634
Pulaski165551
Crawford146718
Newton145245
Benton143516
Brown135546
Martin129317
Switzerland126210
Warren115516
Union97711
Ohio80111
Unassigned0479

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1373275

Reported Deaths: 21596
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1527821560
Cuyahoga1349902327
Hamilton979751320
Montgomery674391141
Summit564421047
Lucas51165863
Butler47623655
Stark41836976
Lorain31748532
Warren30182331
Mahoning27127639
Clermont25753292
Lake24662417
Delaware22415145
Licking20587241
Fairfield20543221
Greene20436272
Trumbull19983509
Medina19884287
Clark17992328
Richland16428234
Portage16225229
Wood15771208
Allen14196256
Miami13889253
Muskingum12762152
Wayne12044238
Columbiana11800241
Tuscarawas11064269
Marion10797148
Pickaway10519129
Scioto10394127
Erie9784171
Ross9502176
Lawrence8809125
Hancock8514141
Ashtabula8376185
Geauga8196156
Belmont8180187
Jefferson7589172
Huron7476128
Union736651
Washington7245120
Athens701765
Sandusky6885134
Darke6789136
Knox6724122
Seneca6422137
Ashland5989113
Auglaize590488
Shelby5774101
Brown568571
Mercer560290
Defiance5511101
Crawford5477114
Madison546771
Highland545081
Fulton536283
Clinton529280
Logan514282
Preble5033110
Putnam4859106
Guernsey474764
Williams462282
Perry456452
Champaign448864
Ottawa439084
Jackson429562
Pike392643
Morrow389051
Coshocton381666
Fayette378453
Adams363575
Hardin362069
Gallia349856
Henry327368
Holmes3273108
Van Wert316170
Hocking305169
Wyandot282658
Carroll264752
Paulding243543
Meigs217442
Monroe190849
Noble171140
Morgan168129
Harrison159340
Vinton139318
Unassigned05
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