Before President Trump headed to meet Vladimir Putin last month, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein requested a meeting in the Oval Office. He was ready to indict Russian officials for election hacking and wanted to know if the president wanted the Justice Department to announce the charges before or after the trip.
Mr. Trump told Mr. Rosenstein to issue the statement as soon as possible, adding that it would strengthen his position in talks with Moscow, according to people familiar with the exchange.
The moment was the latest indication of a significant change in the rapport between the two men.
.. Mr. Rosenstein has steadily developed a stable relationship with the president that suggests he has more staying power than either his supporters or detractors suspect.
.. The two men talk once or twice a week, and Mr. Trump calls Mr. Rosenstein on his cellphone to discuss such issues as immigration, according to one person familiar with the matter. Mr. Rosenstein consistently prepares the president’s team ahead of major news, officials said. And he visits the White House as often as three times a week, meeting with the president or White House chief of staff John Kelly. He also has a regular lunch with White House general counsel Don McGahn.
.. “It’s fantastic,” Mr. Trump said about his rapport with Mr. Rosenstein when a spokesman told him The Wall Street Journal was seeking a comment. “We have a great relationship. Make sure you tell them that.”
.. But the rapprochement may signal that, despite the president’s public statements, the investigation isn’t in immediate danger of being halted.
.. Senior White House officials privately praise Mr. Rosenstein’s handling of demands by congressional Republicans to share internal documents on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s investigations of Hillary Clinton’s email server and any Trump campaign contacts with Russia. Some Trump allies—such as Reps. Mark Meadows (R., N.C.) and Jim Jordan (R., Ohio)—accuse Mr. Rosenstein of stonewalling, but White House officials say they view their effort to impeach Mr. Rosenstein as a sideshow.
Indeed, the president has recently come to rely on Mr. Rosenstein, the No. 2 at the Justice Department whom the White House increasingly views as the No. 1, given the president’s disenchantment with Attorney General Jeff Sessions over his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation because he served on the Trump campaign.