No one is really certain what the hell is going on right now. This is clearly a story that is going to unfold throughout the day, so we’ll keep you posted as it develops. You can read Paste’s first report here that recaps how this all began and largely reflects the early reporting today coming out of the White House. There is more reporting happening now from seemingly other sources in the government, and the picture is a bit clearer than it was a couple hours ago. This Monday morning has been a heck of a week. Here’s what it looks like is happening to my semi-trained eye that’s spent the last eighteen months focused on Trump’s reality show:
Axios attached John Kelly’s name to its initial report, so it wasn’t exactly a secret as to where they got it from. This echoed the anonymous sources in the NYT this weekend saying that Rosenstein wanted to secretly tape Trump. Trump is well-known as a humongous coward who can’t fire people in person, and he is a creature who can only understand the human experience through major media, so this looks like a full-court PR press to pressure Rosenstein into resigning, so Trump can appoint a stooge to oversee the Mueller investigation.
The latest reports are that Rosenstein’s trip to the White House to meet with Trump was actually a pre-scheduled National Security Council meeting, and Rosenstein is not stepping down. As we went to publish this, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Rosenstein will meet with Trump on Thursday. The Daily Beast also talked to Rudy Giuliani, who said he agrees with other Trump attorney Jay Sekulow, when he said this on his radio program today:
“If in fact Rod Rosenstein does end up resigning today. I think it clearly becomes necessary and appropriate…that there be a step back taken here, and a review, a review that has to be thorough and complete…and basically a time out on this inquiry.”
Sekulow also said that he agreed with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham’s proposal to appoint a special counsel to investigate Mueller’s special counsel. This is clearly an attack on the Mueller investigation from the White House, and it’s looking clumsier by the minute. There will likely be another update today, as this war for our Deputy Attorney General’s job plays out in the media. Welcome to the Trump Era.
UPDATE: Another part of this attack-by-press that I had not considered was just brought to light by the well-connected insider, Gabriel Sherman, who reports that “According to a source briefed on Trump’s thinking, Trump decided that firing Rosenstein would knock Kavanaugh out of the news, potentially saving his nomination and Republicans’ chances for keeping the Senate.” Sherman also reports that de facto senior presidential adviser Sean Hannity views the NYT story as a trap to get Trump to fire Rosenstein in a Saturday Night Massacre-like crisis that “however temporarily successful, would leave Democrats holding almost all the cards.” If your head is spinning, don’t worry, that’s the new normal in a time where our government does more work to distort reality through the press than to do work through the actual government.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.