Following Monday's rollercoaster over whether Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had resigned, drama has broken out between Axios' Jonathan Swan - who broke the story, and Vanity Fair's Gabe Sherman - thanks to pot-stirrer in Chief, NBC political reporter Mike Memoli - who tweeted an article by Sherman suggesting Swan got played by White House insiders to distract from the Kavanaugh accusations.
"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," wrote Sherman, citing "a source briefed on Trump's thinking."
Enter NBC's Mike Memoli, who tweeted: "So for those keeping score at home: Gabe Sherman's "source briefed on Trump’s thinking" says that Jonathan Swan's "source with direct knowledge" was just trying to kick Kavanaugh out of the news cycle for a few hours."
So for those keeping score at home: Gabe Sherman's "source briefed on Trump’s thinking" says that Jonathan Swan's "source with direct knowledge" was just trying to kick Kavanaugh out of the news cycle for a few hours. https://t.co/RPq7y9y2ig— Mike Memoli (@mikememoli) September 24, 2018
Swan swiftly responded: "This is such disgraceful bullshit. @gabrielsherman should be ashamed of himself and should stop doing stenography for Steve Bannon. Rosenstein offered his resignation to Kelly. We wrote “verbally resigned.” Justice Dept isn’t denying he offered his resignation."
This is such disgraceful bullshit. @gabrielsherman should be ashamed of himself and should stop doing stenography for Steve Bannon. Rosenstein offered his resignation to Kelly. We wrote “verbally resigned.” Justice Dept isn’t denying he offered his resignation. https://t.co/RHsNKuS0bH— Jonathan Swan (@jonathanvswan) September 24, 2018
That is what happened...and is still happening— Jack Posobiec 🇺🇸 (@JackPosobiec) September 24, 2018
Jon and Gabe figuring out who is more of Bannon's stenographer. pic.twitter.com/XIyQxN1AEe— Kevin (@kevin_cracknell) September 24, 2018
After several hours of mixed messages and rapidly changing headlines, the White House finally weighed in on the Rosenstein "is he in or out" controversy, with Sarah Huckabee Sanders stating that Rosenstein will meet with Trump on Thursday.
A source told Reuters that Rosenstein had spent the weekend contemplating whether he should resign after a shocking New York Times report last week said he had suggested secretly recording Trump in 2017 and invoking a constitutional amendment to remove him from office.
The White House announced the meeting on Monday after a flurry of conflicting reports about whether Rosenstein, a frequent target of Trump’s anger, would be leaving the post.
"At the request of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, he and President Trump had an extended conversation to discuss the recent news stories," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said on Twitter. "Because the President is at the United Nations General Assembly and has a full schedule with leaders from around the world, they will meet on Thursday when the President returns to Washington, DC."
She said the meeting will be on Thursday because Trump was at the U.N. General Assembly on Monday and has meetings with world leaders later in the week.
Hinting at his next steps, shortly after the Times story, Trump told supporters at a rally in Missouri that there is “a lingering stench” at the Justice Department and that “we’re going to get rid of that, too.”
Rosenstein’s departure would prompt questions about the future of Mueller’s investigation and whether Trump, who has called the probe a “witch hunt,” would seek to remove Mueller.
If Rosenstein does resign, Trump has more leeway on replacing him while firing him would make it harder for Trump to designate a successor, as Bloomberg explained here.
Rosenstein’s future ignited a series of conflicting reports on Monday, with the Axios news website cited an unidentified source with knowledge of the matter as saying he had verbally resigned to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. Other reports said Rosenstein expected to be fired while NBC News reported Rosenstein said he would not resign and the White House would have to fire him.