25 Sep 2018

Russia probe chief set for Trump showdown

11:23 am on 25 September 2018

The US deputy attorney general has had an "extended conversation" with the president, the White House says, amid doubts over his future in the job.

Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the special counsel's Russia inquiry, is set for crunch talks with Donald Trump on Thursday, the White House said.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein

Photo: AFP

They discussed reports Mr Rosenstein talked last year about ousting Mr Trump and secretly taping him.

Mr Trump is currently at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

America's second most senior law official was summoned to the White House on Monday amid a report that he had verbally resigned to the president's chief of staff in the expectation that he was going to be fired.

But White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said afterwards: "At the request of the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, he and President Trump had an extended conversation to discuss the recent news stories.

"Because the President is at the United Nations General Assembly and has a full schedule with leaders from around the world, they will meet on Thursday when the President returns to Washington DC."

If Mr Rosenstein did lose his job, another Department of Justice official, the solicitor general, would be in line to take over supervision of the investigation into whether there was any collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign before the 2016 election.

Mr Rosenstein assumed oversight of the inquiry after his boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, recused himself when it emerged he had been in contact with Russia's ambassador to Washington while serving as a Trump campaign adviser

Mr Rosenstein and Mr Trump are believed to have discussed Friday's report in the New York Times that the deputy attorney general had discussed recruiting cabinet members to invoke a US constitutional clause that provides for the removal of a president if deemed unfit for office.

According to the newspaper, Mr Rosenstein had also suggested surreptitiously recording the president in order to expose the chaos in the White House.

He denied the claims, and a Department of Justice spokesperson told the BBC the secret recording remark was just a joke.

The deputy attorney general was said to have made the comments after Mr Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May 2017.

Mr Trump said over the weekend he had not made up his mind whether to fire the deputy attorney general.

"We will make a determination," the Republican president told Fox News in the radio interview, which aired on Monday. "It's certainly a very sad story.

"I haven't gotten all the facts, but certainly it's being looked at in terms of what took place - If anything took place."

Sean Hannity, a Fox News host and friend of Mr Trump, has urged him to not fire Mr Rosenstein, warning he would fall into a trap laid by his political enemies.

Mid-term elections are looming on 6 November, when the president's party will try to keep control of the US Congress.

Mr Trump has repeatedly referred to the special counsel's Russia investigation as a political witch hunt.


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