STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Just to review the last several days of Rod Rosenstein news - strictly speaking, nothing has happened. The deputy attorney general was the subject of a news story saying that he talked of getting Cabinet members to remove President Trump from office, but reports of Rosenstein's firing or resignation afterward have not yet come true. And the president dismissed the idea at his news conference yesterday. NPR White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe was there. Good morning.
AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: Good morning.
INSKEEP: What did the president say?
RASCOE: Well, I asked him whether he was going to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. You may recall, it was Rosenstein who reportedly talked about secretly recording the president and invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office. Here's some of what the president said.
(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I would much prefer keeping Rod Rosenstein - much prefer. Many people say I have the right to absolutely fire him. He said he did not say it. He said he does not believe that. And nobody in this room believes it.
INSKEEP: I feel we need a little translation there. He said he does not believe that, and nobody believes it. What is the that that he thinks nobody believes?
RASCOE: I think the that is - and he said later - the idea that he is incompetent or that you would need to impose the 25th Amendment because he's basically not capable of being president. And so what he was saying was he doesn't think anyone believes that. And Rosenstein does say that he didn't - he denies the New York Times story, generally. Yes.
INSKEEP: And a Justice Department official has said, well, maybe he said those things but said them sarcastically. Should we remember why it matters whether the deputy attorney general stays or goes or one very specific reason that it would matter? He oversees the Russia investigation. Did that come up?
RASCOE: Yes. So President Trump - even though, in my question, I did not ask about the Russia investigation, but he brought it up - and basically saying that - he said, once again, there was no collusion unless you call - and there was no obstruction. He just fights back. And so, basically, he seemed to be linking - definitely linking Rosenstein in his mind to the Russia investigation. When he thinks of Rosenstein, he thinks the Russia investigation - and basically arguing that this whole Russian investigation isn't important. It's a, quote, unquote, "witch hunt." And so he can get rid of Rosenstein if he wants.
INSKEEP: Oh, because his logic is people may think he should not fire Rosenstein because that's interfering with an investigation, but the president's viewpoint is he didn't do anything wrong so he can interfere with the investigation and it's no big deal. What kind of relationship do these two men have? - the deputy attorney general overseeing the Russia investigation and the president of the United States?
RASCOE: It doesn't seem very close. It seems - there have been reports that President Trump even kind of makes fun of Rosenstein. He - now, the president denied that on Twitter. But he has - but Trump has said publicly and said on Twitter that he feels that Rosenstein is conflicted because he's over the Russia investigation, which has some - which is looking at obstruction. But he was also somewhat involved in the firing of former FBI Director James Comey. So he has definitely lashed out at Rosenstein at times.
INSKEEP: Oh, yeah. A Rosenstein memo was used as the reason for Comey's firing even though Rosenstein was said not to have wanted that to be the case. Ayesha, thanks very much.
RASCOE: Thank you.
INSKEEP: NPR's Ayesha Rascoe. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.