U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the special counsel investigation into Russia's role in the 2016 presidential election, headed to the White House on Monday amid reports he would be leaving the post.
A source told Reuters that Rosenstein had not been fired but had spent the weekend contemplating whether he should resign after a New York Times report said in 2017 he had suggested secretly recording President Donald Trump.
The Axios news website cited an unidentified source with knowledge of the matter as saying Rosenstein, the No. 2 Justice Department official and a frequent target of Trump's anger, had verbally resigned to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. Another Axios source said Rosenstein is "expecting to be fired" so he plans to step down. NBC News reported Rosenstein said he would not resign and the White House would have to fire him.
Trump has faced mounting pressure from the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is looking into Russia's role in the 2016 presidential election.
There had been widespread speculation that Trump would fire Rosenstein since Friday when a New York Times report said that in 2017 Rosenstein had suggested secretly recording the president and recruiting Cabinet members to invoke a constitutional amendment to remove him from office.
The Times said none of those proposals came to fruition. Rosenstein denied the report as "inaccurate and factually incorrect."
Shortly after the Times story, Trump told supporters at a rally in Missouri that there is "a lingering stench" at the Justice Department and that "we're going to get rid of that, too."
Rosenstein has defended Mueller and been a target of Trump since he assumed supervision of the Russia investigation after his boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, recused himself because of his own contacts with Russia's ambassador to Washington while serving as a Trump campaign adviser became public.
Rosenstein's departure would prompt questions about whether Trump, who has called the Russia investigation a "witch hunt," would seek to remove Mueller.
The move comes just six weeks ahead of the Nov. 6 congressional elections and could become an explosive political issue as Trump's fellow Republicans try to keep control of Congress.