President Donald J. Trump is to meet Thursday with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, whose job is in jeopardy following a report that he once discussed constitutional means to remove Trump and the possibility of secretly recording the president.
Rosenstein’s precarious status alarmed congressional Democrats because he oversees the investigation into possible collusion between Russians and Trump associates during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Any termination or resignation would have immediate implications for special counsel Robert Mueller's probe. Rosenstein, the former U.S. Attorney for Maryland, appointed Mueller and manages his investigation into Russian election meddling.
“Mr. Rosenstein’s removal would plunge our nation into uncharted territory and pose a serious and profound threat to the continued work of the Special Counsel," said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Baltimore Democrat.
Cummings called on the Republican leadership of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee -- of which he is the top-ranking Democrat -- to convene an emergency hearing if Rosenstein is forced out.
Rosenstein had been Maryland’s U.S. attorney for 12 years when he left his office in Baltimore to serve as the No. 2 to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions ordinarily would have overseen the Russia investigation but recused himself because of his close involvement in the Trump campaign.
Moveon.org, the liberal political organizing group, is planning nationwide protests -- including in Baltimore and Annapolis -- if Rosenstein or Mueller is fired. The demonstrations would feature the slogan "Nobody is above the law."
"The fear is Trump would try to get rid of Rosenstein as a way of getting rid of Mueller," said David Rodwin, a Baltimore activist and attorney helping to coordinate the local response as part of a citizens' group called Indivisible Baltimore.
"I think it's important that people come out in the streets. People get an energy from coming together -- a sense of their own power," Rodwin said.
Rosenstein’s tenure was imperiled after a report Friday by The New York Times that he discussed invoking the 25th amendment, which outlines a method to remove an unfit chief executive
In his February 2017 farewell remarks, Rosenstein told a meeting of Baltimore criminal justice leaders that he’d determined the median tenure for the country’s deputy attorney general was just 14 months.
On Monday, Rosenstein was captured by photographers leaving the White House after meetings there. Rosenstein was led out by chief of staff John Kelly amid reports he had offered to resign.
“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.,” Sanders said.
It's unclear what will happen Thursday. That is also the day that the Senate Judiciary Committee is to publicly hear from Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and a woman -- university professor Christine Blasey Ford -- who has accused him of sexual assault.
As of Sunday, Trump said he had not decided what to do about Rosenstein. He angrily asked confidants, both inside and outside the White House, how to respond. He received mixed messages. Some urged him to fire Rosenstein. Others suggested restraint while seeing if the report was incorrect or if it was planted by some adversary.
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 November’s midterm election.
Cummings called Rosenstein a "firewall."
“If President Trump forces out Mr. Rosenstein — regardless of how it happens — the American people deserve a full and complete accounting of these actions, and the Oversight Committee should hold an immediate emergency hearing with Mr. Rosenstein, obtain all the emails and other correspondence from the White House and Justice Department, and start conducting transcribed interviews and depositions about this decision,” Cummings said in a written statement.
Amanda Gonzalez Thompson, the committee's spokesperson, did not respond to a request for comment.
Were Rosenstein to be forced out, Solicitor General Noel Francisco, the highest-ranking Senate-confirmed official below Rosenstein in the Justice Department, would be in line to oversee the Mueller investigation. A spokesman for Mueller declined to comment.
Francisco was an associate counsel to former President George W. Bush and a partner at Jones Day, a large law firm that once represented Trump's campaign.