The White House is building a case to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal that said allies are being told to attack Rosenstein on television.
The idea is to launch attacks on Rosenstein, the Justice Department official overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling, in a way that avoids making it appear that Trump is meddling in the probe.
One person who spoke to the president this week told The Wall Street Journal that Rosenstein’s ouster is “a matter of when, not if.”
Trump met with Rosenstein on Thursday in the White House. It was described as a routine business meeting.
GOP lawmakers are pressing Trump to not fire Rosenstein or Mueller, arguing it would create a political crisis months before a midterm election already looking dangerous for Republicans.
The Wall Street Journal also reported that officials within the White House, including press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, have argued against firing Rosenstein.
Allies of Trump in recent days have gone on an offensive against Rosenstein since the FBI on Monday raided the offices, residence and hotel room of the president's personal attorney, Michael Cohen. The raid, which Rosenstein reportedly approved, deeply angered Trump given his close relationship with his attorney.
The decision, which came after a referral from Mueller, also opened a new flank in the legal battles for Trump, as the raid was conducted by a federal attorney's office in New York.
In building a case to fire Rosenstein, some Trump allies such as Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) have pointed to delays in congressional probes receiving documents from the Justice Department. Meadows on Tuesday said if the attorney general and deputy attorney general couldn't deliver the documents quickly, "let's find two who will."
Trump also urged supporters to watch Fox News host Sean Hannity's show on Wednesday, during which Hannity called for Rosenstein to be fired.