Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein tells confidantes he is prepared to be fired

WASHINGTON — Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has struck a stoic and righteous tone in private conversations he has had this week about the fate of his job as President Donald Trump has launched public criticism against him and considered firing him, according to three sources who have spoken to Rosenstein.

In those conversations, he has repeated the phrase, "Here I stand," a reference to Martin Luther's famous quote, "Here I stand, I can do no other." Coincidentally, former FBI Director James Comey, whom Rosenstein fired, repeated the same phrase to President George W. Bush in a conversation that has been widely reported and that Comey describes in his forthcoming book.

One source who spoke to Rosenstein said he seemed fully aware he may soon lose his job and was at peace with the possibility, confident he had done his job with integrity.

Rosenstein has said in recent private conversations that history will prove he did the right thing by firing Comey in May 2017, claiming that the American people do not have all the facts about what led to his decision to write the memo that led to Comey's dismissal, the sources said.

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Notable people who have been fired or resigned from Trump's administration
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Notable people who have been fired or resigned from Trump's administration

White House Communications Director Hope Hicks reportedly announced her resignation after testifying about her job and being required to tell "white lies."

(Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned from his position on July 5, 2018 after a number of ethics scandals.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Rob Porter resigned as White House staff secretary in February 2018 amid abuse allegations made by his ex-wives.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was fired by President Trump in March 2018.

(Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

H.R. McMaster was replaced by John Bolton as national security advisor in March 2018.

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White House aide Kelly Sadler left her position in June 2018 after reportedly mocking Sen. John McCain.

(REUTERS/Leah Millis)

Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn announced his resignation in March 2018 after becoming a key architect of the 2017 tax overhaul 

(REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein)

Sally Yates was fired from her post as acting attorney general when she refused to enforce President Trump's travel ban. 

(Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Michael Flynn resigned as national security adviser in February after misleading Vice President Mike Pence about his interactions with Russian officials. 

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

President Trump announced David Shulkin was out as secretary of veterans affairs by sending a tweet announcing he had nominated his personal physican, Ronny Jackson, to replace him on March 28, 2018.

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Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in early May.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer resigned in July.

(June 20, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus resigned in July.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Former advisor to President Donald Trump Steve Bannon resigned in August.

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Anthony Scaramucci, former White House communications director was fired in July after just 10 days on the job. 

(Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Trump fired Deputy Chief of Staff Katie Walsh amid White House leaks in April.

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria/Files)

Former Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price resigned in late September. 

(Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

White House aide Omarosa Manigault insists she resigned and was not fired from her role in December 2017.

(Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

President Trump fired U.S. Attorney in Manhattan Preet Bharara in March.

(REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein)

Mike Dubke resigned as White House communications director in late May.

(Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Walter Shaub, former Director of the United States Office of Government Ethics in Washington, DC resigned in July.

(Photo Linda Davidson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

White House deputy assistant Sebastian Gorka resigned in August 2017. 

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Rick Dearborn, White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Legislative Affairs, left the White House in December 2017.

(REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein)

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Those same sources spoke to Rosenstein multiple times over the course of his tenure as the No. 2 attorney at the Justice Department and say Rosenstein now seems less anxious than he has been at previous times when the president has criticized him.

They previously described Rosenstein as anxious and upset under the pressure of public criticism for his role in the firing of former FBI Director James Comey as well as the president's wrath for his subsequent decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Particularly in early summer 2017, around the time he fired Comey, and towards the end of the year as Trump increased his public denunciations of Rosenstein, sources say they witnessed the deputy attorney general's anxiety flare, sometimes in late-night phone calls.

Rosenstein, who served under both Republican and Democratic presidents as a U.S. attorney, took over the Russia probe after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself in March 2017 after reports surfaced about Sessions' interactions with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. during the 2016 presidential campaign. Sessions said he recused himself in order to avoid the appearance of conflict since he worked as a campaign surrogate, but that the meetings were within the scope of his duties as a U.S. senator at the time.

If Rosenstein is fired, the next in line to oversee Mueller's probe is Solicitor General Noel Francisco, though Trump could choose to replace Rosenstein with anyone who has been confirmed by the Senate.

Trump tweeted on Wednesday morning that Rosenstein was perhaps more conflicted than Mueller because he "signed FISA and Comey letter," referring to the authorization for surveillance of former Trump campaign operative Carter Page as well as the memo that fired James Comey.

Alan Dershowitz, a criminal defense lawyer who has publically defended Donald Trump against the Mueller probe, said Rosenstein should be recused from overseeing the Russia investigation because he is a witness to issues under investigation, such as the firing of Comey. Trump's former chief strategist Steve Bannon has also called on Trump to fire Rosenstein this week.

The Justice Department and Rosenstein declined to comment on the content of these private conversations.

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