President Trump told Fox News he is “surprised” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein won’t testify Thursday on Capitol Hill about reports the Justice Department official suggested secretly wearing a wire to record the president, considering their conversation on Air Force One earlier this week.
“I’m a little surprised that Rod wouldn’t do it,” Trump said during a lengthy interview on “Fox & Friends.”
The president was referring to the stalled negotiations to bring Rosenstein to Capitol Hill as early as Thursday to testify on the allegations. Those talks reached an impasse Wednesday, and some GOP lawmakers have even called for Rosenstein to be subpoenaed in response.
Without necessarily taking sides in that dispute, Trump on Thursday cited their meeting aboard Air Force One earlier this week. The president said they discussed Rosenstein’s reported comments – including that Rosenstein once suggested invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office last year. Rosenstein has denied seriously suggesting either.
“He mentioned certain things to me that you know are very positive about that event,” Trump said. “I would imagine you would want to put that down. And frankly, whether you were under oath or not shouldn't matter. But he mentioned things to me that I would think would be fine for him to testify.”
The New York Times first reported the details of the alleged discussions between Rosenstein and senior FBI officials in May 2017, one day before Rosenstein appointed Special Counsel Robert Mueller to oversee the Russia investigation.
After the allegations surfaced, Fox News reported on Sept. 22, based on a source who was in the meeting, that Rosenstein's "wire" comments were viewed as "sarcastic."
Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, on Thursday confirmed to Fox News that Rosenstein told Trump his comments on wiretapping were “sarcastic.” Further, he said Trump did not believe Rosenstein considered invoking the 25th Amendment to oust him.
Rosenstein previously released a statement saying, "I never pursued or authorized recording the President and any suggestion that I have ever advocated for the removal of the President is absolutely false."
But as reported by Fox News, former FBI general counsel James A. Baker told congressional investigators during a closed-door deposition last week that two senior FBI officials at the time told him they believed Rosenstein was “serious.”
The original Times report triggered new tensions between the White House and DOJ, where Rosenstein oversees the Mueller-led probe. But Trump later met with Rosenstein, assuring his job is safe at least for now, and said Thursday he gets along with his deputy attorney general.
On Wednesday, the Washington Post also reported that Rosenstein and then-acting FBI director Andrew McCabe feuded in front of Mueller in May 2017, with both urging each other to recuse themselves from the Russia probe.
Asked during his Fox News interview if he bonded with Rosenstein over distrust of McCabe, Trump took aim at both McCabe and former FBI director James Comey, calling them both "bad." He praised Rosenstein for writing a memo recommending Comey's firing.
“Andy McCabe is a bad guy,” Trump said. “And Comey is a very bad guy. … This country got very lucky when I fired him. And, as you know, Rod wrote a big memo about how horrible … Comey is. He is a horrible guy and he lied and he leaked.”
Fox News' Catherine Herridge contributed to this report.