WASHINGTON, D.C. (Bloomberg) — Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told President Donald Trump last week that he isn’t a target of any part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Rosenstein, who brought up the Mueller probe himself, offered the assurance during a meeting with Trump at the White House last Thursday, a development that helped tamp down the president’s desire to remove Rosenstein or Mueller, the people said.
After the meeting, Trump told some of his closest advisers that it’s not the right time to remove either man since he’s not a target of the probe. One person said Trump doesn’t want to take any action that would drag out the investigation.
The change in attitude by the president comes after weeks of attacks on the special counsel and the Justice Department, raising questions about whether he might take drastic steps to shut down the probe.
The shift gives some breathing room for Mueller, as well as Rosenstein, who has been criticized strongly by House Republicans for being slow to comply with requests for classified documents. Last week’s meeting was set up in part to allow Rosenstein to assuage Trump’s frustration with his decisions.
U.S. stocks pared their decline on the news. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was down 0.5 percent at 3:40 p.m. in New York after an earlier slump of as much as 1 percent.
At the same time, Rosenstein’s message may have been based on a technicality. Trump may not officially be a target, but Mueller hasn’t ruled out making him one at some point in the future, according to a U.S. official with knowledge of the unfolding investigation.