The president also reportedly has weighed firing special counsel Robert Mueller.
Reports that President Donald Trump is considering firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein surfaced this week in the wake of FBI raids on the offices and hotel room of Michael Cohen, the president’s personal attorney.
The raids, which Rosenstein reportedly signed off on personally, came as a result of a referral by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. The raids had the president fuming on Monday and Tuesday.
Trump was reportedly weighing a number of potentially drastic options, including firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, CNN reported Tuesday, citing multiple unnamed sources familiar with the matter. But officials said the most probable target, if the president acts, would be Rosenstein.
The New York Times also cited several people briefed on the Cohen investigation who said Trump was privately discussing whether or not to fire Rosenstein in the wake of the Cohen raids.
According to a source close to Rosenstein’s office, since the raids, the White House has not put any pressure on the deputy attorney general to resign, nor has the White House indicated to the deputy AG’s office that Rosenstein will be fired.
At a military leadership meeting on Monday, Trump also openly discussed the idea of firing Mueller.
“Why don’t I just fire Mueller?” Trump asked, repeating a reporter’s question. “Well, I think it’s a disgrace what’s going on. We’ll see what happens, but I think it’s really a sad situation .... Many people have said you should fire him. Again, they found nothing, and in finding nothing, that’s a big statement.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Tuesday that Trump “certainly believes he has the power” to fire Mueller.
Republicans have warned Trump against firing the special counsel, a course of action Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Tuesday said “would be suicide for the president.”
The president also renewed his critique of Sessions this week over the attorney general’s decision last year to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.
Rosenstein has overseen the investigation since Sessions’ recusal and has been frequently criticized by Trump. Rosenstein appointed Mueller to take over the Russia inquiry after the president fired former FBI Director James Comey last year.
The president also reportedly considered firing Rosenstein last summer around the same time that he considered firing Mueller.
Democrats, meanwhile, said they would treat firing Rosenstein as equally bad as firing Mueller.
“I’d like to make something crystal clear to the president: Mr. President, any attempt to remove Rod Rosenstein will create the exact same constitutional crisis as if you fired special counsel Bob Mueller,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters on Tuesday.
At the root of Trump’s anger this time is Monday’s raids, which sought information in Cohen’s office and hotel room regarding payments to two women who have alleged that they had affairs with Trump more than 10 years ago. Agents seized documents relating to a $130,000 payment Cohen made to former adult film star Stormy Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, as well as emails, tax records and business documents, according to the Times.
They also were reportedly looking for information about Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who claims she had a nearly yearlong affair with Trump in 2006. American Media Inc., parent company of The National Enquirer, reportedly paid McDougal $150,000 for the rights to her story and then didn’t run one, which is thought to have been an attempt to silence her. The company’s CEO, David Pecker, is known to be a friend of Trump’s.