President Donald Trump would prefer for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to keep his job, he said Wednesday.
The president will meet with the No. 2 Justice Department official on Thursday amid swirling rumors about his ouster. But Trump said he does not want to fire the man who appointed special counsel Robert Mueller to lead the Russia investigation that he has publicly raged against for months.
"I would certainly prefer not" firing Rosenstein, Trump told reporters during a news conference after his appearance at the United Nations General Assembly.
"My preference would be to keep him and let him finish up," the president added.
Reports that Rosenstein mentioned the possibility of invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office last year set off speculation that the president could fire him soon. But on Wednesday, the president said he "had a good talk" with the deputy attorney general, who Trump said denied making the comments.
Trump's meeting with Rosenstein comes on the same day as a dramatic hearing, when Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh will testify about an accusation of sexual assault decades ago in high school. College professor Christine Blasey Ford says the appeals judge assaulted her at a party in the early 1980s. The allegation, combined with two other claims of sexual misconduct that the appeals judge vehemently denies, has temporarily stalled his confirmation process.
Trump said he may call Rosenstein and "ask for a little bit of a delay" in their meeting so it does not interfere with the Kavanaugh hearing. The president added that he does not "want to do anything that's going to conflict with that."
Rosenstein's potential departure led to concerns that Trump could appoint a replacement who would fire Mueller and end the Russia investigation. Trump has repeatedly called the probe a "witch hunt."