President Donald Trump has issued an ominous warning about the Justice Department and the FBI, promising more firings to rid a "lingering stench" after reports that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein discussed secretly recording Trump.
Trump, at a political rally on Friday night in Missouri, did not explicitly mention the Rosenstein furor, first reported by The New York Times and confirmed by The Associated Press.
But the president lashed out against what he perceives as anti-Trump bias in the Justice Department and cited the firings he already has orchestrated. The dismissals have unnerved many in federal law enforcement and raised fears about the future of the special counsel's Russia investigation, which Rosenstein oversees.
"You've seen what happened in the FBI and the Department of Justice. The bad ones, they're all gone. They're all gone," Trump said. "But there is a lingering stench and we're going to get rid of that, too."
One person present during Rosenstein's remarks said the second-ranking official was being sarcastic. The Times also said Rosenstein raised the idea of using the 25th Amendment to remove Trump as unfit for office. Rosenstein said the story is "inaccurate and factually incorrect."
It was the latest storm to buffet the White House.
Trump's former fixer, Michael Cohen, is cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. Trump has backed off his plan to declassify documents related to that probe, and the fate of his Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanagh, remains uncertain.
Negotiations are continuing with the Senate Judiciary Committee about a possible appearance by Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault at a high school party more than three decades ago.
Trump made the future of Kavanaugh and the federal judiciary a centrepiece of his rally in Springfield, which was designed to support Missouri's attorney general, Josh Hawley, in his race against Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill.
"I don't know who she is with but she is not with the state of Missouri," Trump said. "(Kavanaugh) is a fantastic man, a fantastic man. She won't vote for him."
But Trump, who used Twitter earlier on Friday to cast doubt on Ford's claim, preached optimism on Kavanaugh, saying "he was born for the US Supreme Court" and reassuring the crowd that "it's going to happen. It's going to happen."
The crowd in Springfield chanted support during Trump’s speech to clean up the Justice Department.
He added: "We have to fight for him, not worry about the other side. And by the way, women are for that more than anybody would understand."
When Hawley praised Trump's judicial picks, the crowd began chanting Kavanaugh's name.
The reports about Rosenstein created even greater uncertainty about his future at a time when Trump has lambasted Justice Department leadership and publicly humiliated both Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
More broadly, it's the latest revelation that could affect Mueller, who is investigating possible coordination between Russia and Trump's presidential campaign in 2016.
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