WH officials: no discussions about firing deputy attorney general

Image: Donald Trump
Trump skirted questions about Rosenstein Friday, ahead of the release of the Nunes memo.JONATHAN ERNST / Reuters

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By Ali Vitali

WASHINGTON — There have been no considerations or discussions to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, three White House officials told NBC News on Friday, hours after Trump skirted questions from reporters about whether he still had confidence in Rosenstein.

"You figure that one out," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Friday morning. The questions came moments before the House released a controversial memo that alleged FBI bias against Trump and his associates.

Trump declassified the entire three-and-a-half page document, drafted by White House ally and House Intelligence Committee chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., despite objections by top brass at the FBI and Department of Justice.

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Rosenstein, in tandem with FBI Director Chris Wray — a Trump appointee — stood in opposition to the memo's release and appealed to White House chief of staff John Kelly earlier in the week in an attempt to stop it, two sources with knowledge of the matter confirmed to NBC News at the time.

After its release Friday, some said they worried the document could be used by Trump to justify firing the deputy attorney general.

"I think there’s a grave concern that the president, who’s looking for any pretext to get rid of anyone who doesn’t swear fealty to him, might use it to argue against Rod Rosenstein," Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and among the most outspoken critics of the memo's release, said Friday.

Trump reportedly asked Rosenstein during a December meeting if he was "on my team," according to a CNN report.

The president began the day Friday by lashing out at top law enforcement officials for politicizing "the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans," making clear that he wasn't including the "Rank & File" in his criticism.

Just before the memo was released, Trump fielded questions from a group of reporters about the document, calling it "a disgrace what's going on in this country" and saying that "a lot of people should be ashamed of themselves."

Putting the unprecedented moment into context Friday, former CIA Director John McLaughlin told MSNBC: "It’s worth saying in a single sentence what’s happening: We have the president of the United States now having issued to the American public a memo that the director of the FBI says is false. That has never happened in our democracy."