White House declines to say directly that Trump has confidence in Rosenstein

White House declines to say directly that Trump has confidence in Rosenstein
© Greg Nash

The top White House spokesman on Monday did not directly answer a question about whether President Trump supports Rod Rosenstein amid speculation that the deputy attorney general may have to recuse himself from overseeing an investigation into Russian election meddling.

"The president has confidence in everyone who serves in this administration,” press secretary Sean Spicer said when asked by a reporter if Trump has confidence in Rosenstein.

“Including Rod Rosenstein?” a reporter responded.

“The president has confidence in everyone who serves in this administration,” Spicer reiterated.

Spicer added that every political appointee “serves at the pleasure of the president.”

Rosenstein took over the Russia investigation and appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel after Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat House passes concealed carry gun bill Rosenstein to testify before House Judiciary Committee next week MORE recused himself.

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But Rosenstein could become a witness in the special counsel's investigation, potentially leading to his recusal. Rosenstein authored a memo the White House used to justify firing former FBI Director James Comey, whose testimony could be used as part of an obstruction of justice case against Trump, if one exists.

There is also speculation that Trump could replace Rosenstein with someone willing to fire Mueller, although the president’s allies are cautioning against this action.

Spicer noted on Monday that while the authority lies with the deputy attorney general to fire Mueller, all political appointees in the government ultimately report to Trump.

“There may be a technicality as to who reports to whom ... but ultimately everyone who is a political appointee reports to the president,” Spicer said.

That raised questions about whether the White House was considering ways to remove Rosenstein to get to Mueller.

“Is he reserving the right to fire everyone down the line?” a reporter asked.

“The way it works is that if you’re appointed to serve at the pleasure of the president, then you serve at the pleasure of the president,” Spicer said.

The reporter asked Spicer if Trump would keep firing Justice Department employees until he found someone willing to replace Mueller.

“That’s a hypothetical question,” Spicer responded. “The bottom line is I answered a question as to how the system is set up.”