The top two officials at the Justice Department, including Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, on Thursday skirted remarks made by President Donald Trump that appeared to question his confidence in them.
Trump told the New York Times in an interview published Wednesday that he is unhappy with Rosenstein, suggesting he was disappointed to learn he was from Baltimore.
Trump said he would not have appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions had he known Sessions would recuse himself from overseeing an investigation into his campaign's ties with Russia. A special counsel appointed by Rosenstein is now examining the matter.
But the article said Trump also "expressed discontent" with Rosenstein, a former federal prosecutor in Baltimore and Maryland U.S. Attorney. Rosenstein was born in Philadelphia and lived in Bethesda while he was U.S. Attorney.
Trump told the Times that "there are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any."
Speaking at a previously scheduled and unrelated press conference Thursday in Washington, Rosenstein mostly demurred on questions about the president's remarks.
"I was proud to be here yesterday. I'm proud to be here today, and I'll be proud to be here tomorrow," Rosenstein said, before trying to focus reporters' questions back to the criminal case prosecutors were announcing.
At that same press conference, Sessions was peppered with questions about whether he would resign and, if not, whether he could continue in the job if he did not have the confidence of the president.
"We will continue every single day to work hard to serve the national interest and we wholeheartedly join in the priorities in President Trump," Sessions said. "We love this job. We love this department. And I plan to continue to do so.
"I'm totally confident that we can continue to run this office in an effective way."
Rosenstein won bipartisan support earlier this year when he was confirmed to the No. 2 spot in the U.S. Department of Justice, and has presented himself as apolitical.