President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee will return to Capitol Hill on Thursday to testify about multiple allegations of sexual assault that emerged over the past two weeks. At the same time, Trump will meet with the deputy attorney general in the White House to discuss his future with the administration.
Predicting the president’s actions is always a fraught endeavor, but Rosenstein reportedly anticipated he would be fired on Monday. Axios published the draft text of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s statement that would have announced Rosenstein’s departure:
Rod Rosenstein has served the Department of Justice with dedication and skill for 28 years. His contributions are many and significant. We all appreciate his service and sincerely wish him well.
Matt Whitaker, my Chief of Staff for the last year, will instill confidence and uphold the integrity of the Department as the second highest law enforcement officer in the Nation.
Finally, I am confident that Noel Francisco will oversee the special counsel with a commitment to justice as Acting Attorney General for this matter. As I have said before, the American people deserve an expeditious resolution of this investigation consistent with the rule of law.
The Thursday timing is quite a coincidence, one that the White House attributes to the president’s busy week of meetings with world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. But there may also be an ulterior motive. Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman reported that Monday’s drama surrounding Rosenstein’s potential ouster may have been an attempt to shield Kavanaugh from another bruising news cycle after The New Yorker published Deborah Ramirez’s account of her encounter with the nominee at Yale.
The calendar-based chicanery may seem clever, but it’s unlikely to work. The key audience for Thursday’s hearing is wavering Republican senators, whose concerns won’t be assuaged by a switch-up in the news cycle, and not the news media or even the American people as a whole. And the Kavanaugh hearings are unlikely to minimize any blowback Trump would face for removing Rosenstein. Ousting the deputy attorney general on dubious grounds will rightly be seen as a deliberate attempt to hinder the Russia investigation, no matter when or how Trump does it.