Attorney General Jeff Sessions reportedly told the White House that he may quit should President Trump fire Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein — the latest in a tense standoff between the White House and the Justice Department.
Trump has repeatedly attacked both Sessions and Rosenstein and renewed that criticism after the April 9 raid this month on the office and hotel room of his personal attorney Michael Cohen — a move signed off on by Rosenstein, who is now overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. Sources told Fox News that Rosenstein told Trump he is not a target of the investigation into Cohen.
Immediately after the raid, Trump described Sessions’ decision in early 2017 to recuse himself from investigations related to Russia and the Trump campaign as a “terrible mistake for the country.” He also blasted Rosenstein for signing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant that extended surveillance on former Trump aide Carter Page.
The Washington Post reported late Friday that Trump was furious at Rosenstein’s approval of the Cohen raid and that Sessions called White House counsel Donald McGahn and requested details of an April 12 meeting between Trump and Rosenstein at the White House.
Sessions was reportedly relieved to learn that the meeting was cordial and told McGahn that he would have had to consider resigning if Trump fired Rosenstein. Another source told the Post that Sessions did not want to threaten the White House so much as explain that it would make his position untenable.
The Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Fox News.
While Trump has made Sessions a regular public punching bag, attacking him on multiple occasions, such a resignation would risk plunging the White House into crisis.
Yet, despite Sessions’ reported warning, other reports suggest that Trump has still not ruled out firing Rosenstein — with Axios reporting that Trump “hasn’t cooled off on” the deputy AG and that he is still looking at possibly firing him.
“Trump doesn’t know exactly what to do with [Rosenstein],” a source close to the president told the outlet. “They don’t have a clean way to get rid of him. That’s the problem.”
Trump has sparred repeatedly with Sessions though the punches have been thrown almost exclusively by the president. Sessions was one of Trump’s earliest supporters and is closely aligned with Trump on issues such as illegal immigration and law and order.
On policy, Trump has embraced a great deal of what Sessions is doing at the Justice Department. He has repeatedly cited the lawsuit filed by the DOJ against California over its “sanctuary policies.” The lawsuit claims such policies prevent federal immigration authorities from enforcing immigration law. Since that lawsuit was filed, Trump has repeatedly blasted California Gov. Jerry Brown in particular over the state’s policies on illegal immigration.
Yet even that alignment has not prevented Trump from not only attacking Sessions, but also stating that he regrets hiring him in the first place, telling reporters on multiple occasions that he would not have appointed Sessions if he had known he would recuse himself.
But while the threat of firing has been long held over Sessions’ head, it has not come to pass — even as numerous Cabinet officials and White House staff have either resigned or been ousted.
Rosenstein, too, has faced a similar grilling from Trump. In June of last year, Trump complained that he was “being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director.” In February, when asked by reporters if he would fire Rosenstein over his involvement in the warrant on Page, Trump responded: You figure that one out.”
John Roberts contributed to this report.