President Donald Trump and U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the special counsel investigation into Russia's role in the 2016 presidential election, will meet on Thursday to discuss whether Rosenstein will stay in his job.
Rosenstein's future ignited a series of conflicting reports on Monday, with the Axios news website cited an unidentified source with knowledge of the matter as saying he had verbally resigned to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.
The position of deputy attorney general is ordinarily a relatively low-visibility one in Washington, but Rosenstein has assumed outsized significance given his appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller to investigate potential ties between Russian Federation and Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.
Speaking this morning on ABC's "Good Morning America", Sanders was asked whether her boss has confidence in Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein after a report that he suggested recording Trump and removing him from office.
If Rosenstein were to step down or be ousted, it is highly likely that Solicitor General Noel Francisco, who is the highest-ranking Senate-confirmed Department of Justice official below Rosenstein, would assume control of the Mueller investigation. Those people said Kelly had urged Rosenstein to issue a more forceful denial, and officials in the White House and the Justice Department said they thought the second statement was in some ways weaker than the first - putting Rosenstein on even thinner ice.
The meeting will be Thursday, said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
News reported that Mr Rosenstein said he would not resign and the White House would have to fire him. Under the chain of succession that's been contemplated by the administration, Sessions chief of staff Matthew Whitaker would be in line to take over as deputy attorney general if Rosenstein departs. "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, D.C".
Rosenstein appointed and has been overseeing Mueller, and ousting the deputy attorney general would probably raise concerns that the president or his allies were kneecapping the Russian Federation investigation. McGahn told Rosenstein they should discuss the issue Monday, said the person who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private conversation.
Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, whose private memos document comments made by Rosenstein, said Monday he was concerned that a Rosenstein departure would put the investigation at risk.
McCabe memorialized discussions he had with Rosenstein and other senior officials in the stress-packed days immediately after James Comey's firing as Federal Bureau of Investigation director.
Trump, who on Friday said that he would remove a "lingering stench" from the Justice Department, did not publicly reveal any plans over the weekend.
Congressional Republicans, Democrats and some Trump aides have warned for months that the president shouldn't fire Rosenstein, saying such a move could lead to impeachment proceedings if the Democrats retake the House in the upcoming midterms.
Rosenstein's departure would prompt questions about the future of Mueller's investigation and whether Trump, who has called the probe a "witch hunt", would seek to remove Mueller.
He was a regular target of Mr Trump's complaints about Mr Mueller's investigation. Rosenstein appointed Mueller and oversees his investigation.