President Donald Trump’s clear frustrations notwithstanding, it does not appear likely he will fire deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Though the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence’s memo on FISA abuse claims Rosenstein sanctioned surveillance of a former Trump aide based on campaign opposition research, the mood among Republicans in Washington suggests he will not be dismissed.
Rosenstein’s position seemed precarious Friday, when reporters asked the president if he had confidence in the deputy attorney general. “You figure that one out,” Trump replied. A handful of House Republicans also expressed support for sacking Rosenstein in the hours before the memo was released.
Despite the president’s obvious displeasure with the deputy AG, administration officials walked back his statements Friday evening to assuage growing concerns that a dismissal was imminent.
“No changes are going to be made at the DOJ. We fully expect Rosenstein to continue on,” deputy press secretary Raj Shah told CNN.
Rosenstein supervises special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, given Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal from matters relating to the Trump campaign. As such, a move against him would be perceived as a bid to undermine Mueller’s ongoing inquiry.
Prominent Republicans in Congress also counseled against Rosenstein’s firing. GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina told CBS’ “Face the Nation Sunday” that the deputy AG should keep his job but answer questions about his role in approving FISA applications that could be connected to Christopher Steele’s notorious anti-Trump dossier.
“I think it is fair to ask the deputy attorney general ‘what did you know at the time you signed one of the applications?’,” Gowdy said. “I think it is fair to ask ‘what FISA reforms are you going to implement to make sure we don’t have this fact pattern come up again?’ I don’t judge people based on a single decision that they make throughout the course of an otherwise really stellar career.”
“I don’t,” he replied when asked if he believes Rosenstein should be dismissed.
The GOP FISA abuse memo alleges Rosenstein sought a warrant authorizing secret surveillance of former Trump campaign foreign policy advisor Carter Page. The Department of Justice first sought a FISA warrant for Page in the waning days of the Obama administration. Since courts must re-approve FISA warrants every 90 days, it appears Rosenstein sought authorization for Page’s continued electronic surveillance.
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