Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s office was notified of former Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s plea deal at least two days before Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker received the same information, Fox News has learned.
The acting attorney general – to the dismay of Democrats who claim the former conservative activist, with a history of slamming Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe, is compromised – assumed oversight of the inquiry when he took over after the ousting of Jeff Sessions.
But a source familiar with the timeline told Fox News that Whitaker was only informed of the impending plea deal between Mueller and Cohen on Wednesday afternoon.
A source close to President Trump confirmed they were informed Wednesday evening.
Rosenstein’s office, though, received what’s known as an "Urgent Report” on the Cohen matter by Monday at the latest, Fox News is told.
According to Justice Department regulations, Mueller’s office would be required to submit such a report to both the attorney general and deputy attorney general if it's taking any action that would garner significant media attention or attention on Capitol Hill.
The DOJ regulations specify that those reports need to be filed “at least three days in advance of anticipated developments or events to provide department leadership with appropriate notice,” or 24 hours in advance when dealing with “unanticipated events and emergencies.”
The plea deal with Cohen was considered to fall into that three-day category, and the special counsel’s office says the regulation was followed.
Though Rosenstein ceded overall oversight of the Mueller probe to Whitaker, sources say he still oversees day-to-day operations. His office would have received the report in the required timeframe.
It remains unclear if this particular report made it to Whitaker’s office as well, but sources tell Fox News that Whitaker himself wasn’t informed until Wednesday afternoon.
Trump’s legal team was notified when a DOJ official called attorney Jane Raskin late Wednesday. She informed top lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Trump.
Trump and Giuliani have both publicly fired back at the Mueller probe and Cohen in the wake of the plea, in which Cohen admitted to lying to Congress about the timeline of a since-abandoned Moscow real estate project.
Trump called Cohen “weak” and a liar, while claiming the details of the Moscow project discussions don’t reveal any wrongdoing.
“Put up zero money, zero guarantees and didn’t do the project. Witch Hunt!” he tweeted Friday.
“Mueller’s crew has no evidence of collusion. Along the way, however, he is keeping America safe from false statement makers or people with faulty memories or both,” Giuliani tweeted.
Whitaker has faced persistent calls from Democrats to recuse himself from the Mueller probe, amid concerns he could curtail the operation. But the acting AG has held firm, with the backing of the administration.
Meanwhile, outgoing Republican Sen. Jeff Flake has been pressuring his GOP colleagues to allow a Senate vote on a bill to protect the independence of the Mueller probe, vowing to hold up judicial nominees until he secures what he wants.