WASHINGTON – Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, whose tenure appeared to be in serious jeopardy just two weeks ago, planned to travel with President Donald Trump Monday to Orlando, where the president will address the nation’s police chiefs.
Last month, Trump delayed a meeting with Rosenstein where the two were set to discuss reports that the No. 2 official at the Justice Department last year suggested seeking the removal of the president by invoking the 25th Amendment.
The urgency for a meeting appeared to abate after Trump signaled his support for Rosenstein, who strongly denied the account first reported by the New York Times.
"My preference would be to keep (Rosenstein), and let him finish out," Trump told reporters following last month’s meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, apparently referring to Rosenstein's oversight of the ongoing investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election.
"He said he did not say it; he said he does not believe that. Nobody in this room believes it," Trump said.
In his capacity at the Justice Department, Rosenstein has managed the inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, which has touched on Trump and his associates.
Since spring of 2017, Trump has spoken of somehow removing Rosenstein or special counsel Robert Mueller, whom the deputy attorney general appointed to prosecute the Russia case.
Lawmakers, including some Republicans, have said that getting rid of Rosenstein or Mueller could lead to an impeachment investigation of Trump.
In recent weeks, Trump has repeatedly indicated he does not want to fire Rosenstein, even though the deputy attorney general himself expected to lose his job.
Rosenstein’s fate appeared all but sealed two weeks ago when, in wake of the Times report, he rushed to the White House for a meeting with Chief of Staff John Kelly, expecting to be dismissed. A formal statement was being prepared at the time to announce the move.
But the tension dropped when Rosenstein spoke by telephone with Trump following the meeting with Kelly. At the time, Trump was attending United Nations meetings in New York.
Rosenstein has denied reports that he discussed seeking to invoke the 25th Amendment against Trump while offering to wear a wire to gather evidence of the president's erratic behavior following the abrupt dismissal of FBI Director James Comey in May 2017.
Trump allies, ranging from White House aides to Fox News host Sean Hannity, have urged Trump not to fire Rosenstein, saying it would create more problems than it solves.
These allies said FBI enemies of Rosenstein leaked the story about him, hoping for a two-way result: getting Rosenstein fired and creating political problems for Trump.
Addressing police chiefs
Trump and Rosenstein are traveling to Orlando, where the president will speak in the afternoon to the annual convention of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
At the chiefs’ conference, Trump is expected to tout the administration’s anti-crime efforts.
Last month, the FBI reported a slight decline in violent crime after two consecutive years of increases.
In addition to declining numbers, the rates of crimes when accounting for the population also declined. The violent-crime rate was 392.9 offenses per 100,000 residents last year, which was down 0.9 percent from a year earlier, according to the FBI. The property-crime rate was 2,362.2 offenses per 100,000 residents, which was down 3.6 percent, according to the FBI.
The decline occurred during the first year Trump’s administration after he ran for the White House in 2016 on a law-and-order message and pledged to address the problem