U.S. President Donald Trump, citing denials from his deputy attorney general that he once sought Trump's removal from office, said he is leaning toward keeping Rod Rosenstein in his job overseeing an investigation into Russian election activities.
"I'd much prefer keeping Rod Rosenstein," Trump said at a news conference in New York late on September 26, adding that he may postpone a meeting he originally planned with Rosenstein for September 27.
"I may call Rod tonight or tomorrow and ask for a little bit of a delay to the meeting," Trump said.
Doubts over how long Rod Rosenstein could keep his job have been swirling since The New York Times and other media reported last week that he once suggested secretly recording Trump to collect evidence for removing him from office under the 25th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which specifies procedures for ousting presidents deemed unfit to remain in office.
But Trump said Rosenstein denied the reports when they talked recently and offered assurances of his high regard for the president.
"We've had a good talk. He said he never said it. He said he does not believe that. He said he has a lot of respect for me. And he was very nice. And we'll see," Trump said.
"My preference would be to keep him and to let him finish up" his work overseeing Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into ties between Russia and Trump's 2016 election campaign.
Trump's statement came after days of speculation that he would fire Rosenstein over the news reports. Shortly after the Times report about Rosenstein came out on September 21, Trump decried what he called "a lingering stench" at the Justice Department and told supporters that "we’re going to get rid of that, too."
Trump's conciliatory remarks toward Rosenstein also contrast with his repeated blasts against him and Mueller on Twitter over the last year as they pursued an inquiry that Trump maintains is unjustified and amounts to a "witch hunt."
Despite Trump's frequent verbal attacks on the Russia investigation, Rosenstein has told Congress he does not intend to fire Mueller or otherwise interfere with the investigation, which has led to the indictment and conviction of several top former Trump advisers.
Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress have warned Trump against firing Rosenstein, and White House aides have been quoted anonymously saying that they advised Trump against taking any "extreme actions" on the Russian investigation ahead of congressional elections in November which will determine whether his Republican party retains control of Congress.