President Trump said Monday that he has no plans to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, whose future at the Justice Department has been steeped in drama, saying that the two had a “good talk” while traveling together on Air Force One to an event in Florida.
“The press wants to know: What did you talk about?” Trump said at the outset of a speech to the International Association of Chiefs of Police annual convention in Orlando as he thanked Rosenstein for being there. “We had a good talk.”
Trump and Rosenstein were scheduled to meet late last month following reports that Rosenstein wanted to wiretap the president early in his tenure. But Trump postponed the meeting amid an all-consuming confirmation process for Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.
As he left the White House on Monday en route to Florida, Trump told reporters that he has a “very good relationship” with Rosenstein, who oversees the investigation of Russian election interference led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Mueller’s probe has focused in part on whether Trump’s campaign conspired with Moscow to influence the election’s outcome.
A White House spokesman said Trump and Rosenstein spoke for about 30 minutes, but provided no details.
Asked by a reporter if he plans to fire Rosenstein, Trump said, “No, I don’t.”
“I didn’t know Rod before,” the president said. “I’ve gotten to know him, and I get along very well with him.”
Later Monday, after Trump returned to the White House, he told reporters: “I think we’ll be treated very fairly. Everybody understands there was no collusion, there’s no Russia. It was all made up by the Democrats.”
Rosenstein offered to resign last month after reports that he contemplated secretly recording conversations with the president.
The president has told associates that he doesn’t believe that account — particularly the claim that Rosenstein sought to gather support for invoking the 25th Amendment of the Constitution to remove Trump from office.
Trump’s lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, said that the president sees and speaks to Rosenstein frequently, and that he has urged Trump not to remove the Justice Department official “before we have solidified things with Mueller.”
Last month, when it briefly appeared as if Rosenstein was on his way out, the Justice Department began preparing for a future without him. Matt Whitaker, who is Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s chief of staff, would take over as deputy attorney general, and Noel Francisco, the solicitor general, would take over supervision of the Russia probe.
As the plan was taking shape, Rosenstein went to the White House expecting he would be fired but wound up staying in his job.
At a news conference two days later, Trump declared: “My preference would be to keep him and to let him finish up.”
Administration officials have told The Washington Post that Trump is unlikely to fire Rosenstein before the midterm elections in November, but officials increasingly expect both Rosenstein and Sessions to leave the department after the election.
On Capitol Hill, Trump’s closest allies still have Rosenstein in their crosshairs. He is scheduled to be questioned this week behind closed doors by the House Judiciary and the House Oversight and Government Reform committees as part of a probe into the FBI and Justice Department’s conduct during investigations of Trump associates’ suspected links to Russia and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
The joint panel has already spoken with Rosenstein once, in a fiery public hearing during which Rosenstein defended the Justice Department against Republicans’ accusations that political bias had infected its investigation. Conservative lawmakers have called for Rosenstein to step down and Mueller’s probe to be shuttered.
Rosenstein’s public faceoff with lawmakers came shortly after the department’s inspector general released a report criticizing former FBI director James B. Comey and finding that other FBI employees showed a “willingness to take official action” to hurt Trump’s election chances in 2016.
Trump’s Monday speech to the gathering of police chiefs came on the heels of new FBI crime data showing the number of homicides and other violent crimes dipped slightly in the United States last year, suggesting that the rise of violent crimes in recent years may be ending.
The increase in violence in 2015 and 2016 prompted alarm nationwide, including from Sessions, who warned of “the rising tide of violent crime” across the country. Experts have cautioned against reading too much into annual data, while others have pointed to the dramatic decline in crime over the past quarter-century to support the argument for criminal-justice restructuring.
Karoun Demirjian and Josh Dawsey contributed to this report.