Axios Issues Critical "Clarification" To Rosenstein Resignation Report

Update 5: Jonathan Swan, the Axios reporter who initially broke the news this morning that Rod Rosenstein had "verbally resigned" and subsequently triggered a drop in the Dow that erased billions of dollars in value, has issued an important "clarification" that - as fate would have it - changes the story from a major news-cycle-dominating revelation to a barely noteworthy tidbit.

After sparring with Vanity Fair reporter Gabriel Sherman, who suggested that Swan "got played" by a White House insider looking to distract from the second Kavanaugh revelation, Swan has admitted that the phrasing of his initial report was a little off. Instead of reporting that Rosenstein had "verbally resigned", Swan said he meant to say that Rosenstein had verbally offered his resignation to Chief of Staff John Kelly.

Note for readers: I regret the way I wrote this morning's version of the story. By saying Rosenstein had "verbally resigned" to Kelly rather than "offered his resignation," I conveyed a certainty that this fluid situation didn’t deserve. It’s an important nuance, and I regret the wording.

We're sure all of those algos that sold on the headline also "regret" their error, too.

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Update 4: Speaking to reporters at the United Nations, President Trump finally commented on the political event du jour, saying he's looking forward to meeting with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Thursday to discuss his future and "determining what's going on", after Axios reported earlier that Rosenstein told Trump's Chief of Staff John Kelly that he was resigning.

"We’ll be determining what’s going on,” Trump told reporters at the United Nations on Monday. “We want to have transparency, we want to have openness and I’m looking forward to meeting with Rod at that time."

Trump didn’t answer a question about what may happen to Rosenstein.

“I spoke with Rod today and we’re going to have a meeting on Thursday when I get back to the White House,” he said.

Adding to the narrative, Bloomberg reported that Kelly and Rosenstein discussed the Deputy AG's resignation late last week, and the White House accepted it and considered Rosenstein’s departure a done deal, the Bloomberg source said. A second person familiar with the matter said earlier Monday that Rosenstein had been expected to be gone from the job by day’s end. But, the second person said, Rosenstein is still the deputy attorney general and no formal resignation was tendered.

As reported earlier, Rosenstein, who oversees Mueller's Russia probe, visited the White House Monday for a previously scheduled meeting. Other media reports said that the deputy attorney general expected to be fired. “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 Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

Rosenstein’s current status and future intentions have been the cause of much media chaos on Monday in the aftermath of reports that he’d suggested to colleagues last year that he would secretly record his conversations with Trump.

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Update 3: The White House has finally weighed in on the Rosenstein "is he in or out" controversy. Sarah Huckabee Sanders has said 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.

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Update 2: Rosenstein reportedly traveled to the White House on Monday for an NSC meeting...the plot thickens...

Given the intensity of this morning's conflicting media reports, we'd like to introduce "the Rosenstein Uncertainty Principle"...

...meanwhile at the White House...

...speculation is simmering that Trump may be able to appoint any confirmed cabinet member to replace Rosie regardless of whether he resigns or is fired...

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Update 1: WSJ is now reporting that Rosenstein hasn't tendered his resignation - at least not yet. "The situation is still fluid," the paper said.

Though multiple outlets are reporting that Rosenstein has been summoned to the White House with the expectation of being sacked.

Meanwhile...Trump is reportedly on a call with Kelly, who is at the White House.

Reports about Rosenstein's fate have continued to weigh on stocks, with the Dow down 170 points on the day to touch fresh lows (while the Nasdaq has powered higher):



In a statement, former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe said that "if rumors about Rosenstein's departure are true, I'm deeply concerned" that the Mueller probe could be at risk.

One analyst pointed out that Rosenstein's firing would trigger a "political earthquake": "If Rosenstein is fired or resigns, this will be the last step for Trump before firing Mueller as well. And if this happens, believe me if I say that it will definitely not just be 'noise'... it will be a political earthquake with heavy consequences also on markets."

The breathless coverage and speculation has prompted some well-timed jokes on twitter.

Though, on a more serious note, Jack Posobiec pointed out an interesting coincidence related to the timing of Rosenstein's purported resignation.

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After Friday night's blockbuster NYT report in which, according to Andrew McCabe's personal files, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein offered to record President Trump (whether in jest or not) and proposed invoking Article 25, speculation has intensified that President Trump may fire Rosenstein imminently. And while many of Trump's allies have urged caution, fearing a trap, moments ago Axios reported that Rosenstein has decided to preempt that step by verbally resigning to Chief of Staff John Kelly in anticipation of being fired by President Trump, according to a source with direct knowledge.

Within minutes of Axios' report hitting the tape, several other media organizations (including ABC, AP ad Bloomberg) piled on, saying Rosenstein was on his way to the White House to be fired.

Per a source close to Rosenstein: "He’s expecting to be fired," so he plans to step down.

The exact timing of the resignation is unclear, but he isn’t expected to be in job after Monday, according to another person familiar with the matter. The move comes after reports that Rosenstein suggested to colleagues last year that he would secretly record conversations with President Donald Trump.

However, as the NYT clarified, it wasn't immediately clear whether Rosenstein was going to resign, or if he was heading to the White House expecting to be fired. Complicating matters further, MSNBC is reporting that Rosenstein will not resign, as he will "have" to be fired.

It's worth pointing out that Trump is in New York City for the UN General Assembly. And while Bloomberg reported that Rosenstein's resignation letter had been accepted, the NYT said it wasn't clear whether Trump would even accept Rosie's resignation so close to the mid-term elections, which would in effect force the Deputy AG to quit, or reluctantly stay on.

According to MSNBC, the office of the special counsel refused to comment on the story or say whether it had a new boss.


The news sent the S&P and the Dow to fresh session lows, leaving them on track for their biggest daily drop in a month, perhaps due to concerns the latest departure will lead to more political volatility as Trump seeks to end the Mueller probe.


If Rosenstein does leave, oversight of the Mueller probe would fall to Solicitor General Noel Francisco, who would reportedly be much more amenable to Trump. According to Bloomberg, Trump can install a temporary replacement as deputy attorney general until he nominates a successor to Rosenstein, who would have to be confirmed by the Senate.

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As one Twitter user noted, the uncertainty surrounding Rosenstein's status has made for one jam-packed news cycle...