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White House aides told DOJ official to prepare to take over Rosenstein's job

White House aides told DOJ official to prepare to take over Rosenstein's job
© Greg Nash

White House aides this week told a senior Department of Justice official to prepare to replace Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinHouse Judiciary to probe DOJ's seizure of data from lawmakers, journalists The Hill's Morning Report - Biden-Putin meeting to dominate the week Media leaders to meet with Garland to discuss leak investigations MORE following reports that Rosenstein was ready to resign, according to a New York Times report.

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White House chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE reportedly told Matthew Whitaker, the chief of staff for Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThe Hill's Morning Report - After high-stakes Biden-Putin summit, what now? Border state governors rebel against Biden's immigration chaos Garland strikes down Trump-era asylum decisions MORE, that he was next in line to replace Rosenstein if President TrumpDonald TrumpMaria Bartiromo defends reporting: 'Keep trashing me, I'll keep telling the truth' The Memo: The center strikes back Republicans eye Nashville crack-up to gain House seat MORE fired his deputy attorney general or if he resigned.

Aides dropped the plan to bring Whitaker on board by late Monday morning, the Times reported. 

Trump and Rosenstein are set to meet on Thursday in a highly anticipated huddle. The president, during a freewheeling press conference Wednesday, said it is not his "preference" to fire Rosenstein. 

Whitaker, who was formerly the United States attorney for the Southern District of Iowa, once wrote in an op-ed that he believes the Trump family’s finances are beyond the scope of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE's investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Trump has expressed respect and admiration for Whitaker, sources told the Times.

The president has reportedly told advisers that he is "conflicted" over whether to fire Rosenstein, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Their meeting will come one week after The New York Times first reported that Rosenstein, in 2017, discussed secretly recording the president in the Oval Office and floated the idea of invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.

Rosenstein has claimed the report is "factually incorrect" and some officials defending Rosenstein claimed that the remarks were made sarcastically.

Rosenstein oversees Mueller's investigation, which the president has often denounced as a "witch hunt."

Whitaker would not take over the probe if Rosenstein left the department.

-- Updated 9:15 p.m.