Rosenstein’s career is in jeopardy after the New York Times leaked a conversation with the Deputy Attorney General.
This week, Rod Rosenstein found himself the subject of President Trump’s scrutiny. Last Friday, the New York Times leaked that the Deputy Attorney General may have attempted to record conversations with Trump and invoke the 25th Amendment to remove the president from power, both of which Rosenstein denied. The news cycle exploded, and expectations grew that Rosenstein would be forced to resign or be fired by the president.
The White House called Rosenstein in for a meeting last Tuesday, and while the press followed the former U.S. attorney for Maryland under George W. Bush into what seemed to be the end of his current tenure, Rosenstein was granted another meeting on Thursday for reasons unknown. The White House postponed the meeting until the following week, not wanting the Rosenstein story to overshadow Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s hearing.
Rosenstein has been under fire since early 2017, thrust into the national spotlight by Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s recusal from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 Trump campaign. Since that shocking announcement, Rosenstein has overseen the investigation along with Special Counsel and former FBI director Robert Mueller.
Republicans and right-wing media have, for more than a year, claimed that Rosenstein has withheld important information from the public and perpetuated a “witch hunt.” In July, a group of conservatives in the House took the measure of drawing up articles of impeachment for Rosenstein. Citing his refusal to hand over documents from the investigation, the idea caught steam before Paul Ryan stifled this effort by denying his support.
Democrats, on the other hand, realize that Rosenstein might be the only obstacle standing in the way of Trump firing Mueller and ending the Russia investigation. Democratic senators Kamala Harris and Corey Booker have sought to protect Mueller, to no avail, by labelling the investigation quasi-legislative; thus, Trump could not fire Mueller without Senate approval.
If Rosenstein finds himself out of a job next week, the implications could be catastrophic for Republicans; it will likely spark a political and media frenzy unseen since Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre,” and this will assuredly spill over into the midterms. The 2018 Congressional elections are perhaps the most important in recent memory, and anything to secure the House for the Democrats while also disrupting their thin majority in the Senate will signal disaster for Republicans. Rosenstein’s firing could mean Trump will find himself under trial in a year’s time.
If Rosenstein keeps his job next week, Mueller will continue his investigation unimpeded, save the occasional Trump tweet. The Special Counsel’s report, whenever it is released, will be another historic moment in a presidential term that seems to be full of historic moments.