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Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Shortly after Axios published its story this morning, saying that Rod Rosenstein had "verbally resigned" to John Kelly, Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores drafted a statement that would announce Rosenstein's departure, written in the voice of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  

Driving the news: The White House received the statement within an hour of the Axios story being published online, according to a source close to the White House. Flores would not comment on the record about her statement.

Between the lines: The statement does not include the word "resignation." Sources close to both Kelly and Rosenstein have told Axios that Rosenstein had told Kelly in their conversations over the past several days that he was willing to resign and that the two men were discussing the terms of the departure.

Sources close to Trump have told Axios, for months, that the President wanted to find an excuse to get rid of Rosenstein.

The draft statement from Sessions says: "Rod Rosenstein has served the Department of Justice with dedication and skill for 28 years. His contributions are many and significant. We all appreciate his service and wish him well." 

The draft statement goes on to say that Sessions' chief of staff Matt Whitaker would go on to serve as his deputy, and that Noel Francisco, the Solicitor General, would serve as the Acting Attorney General overseeing the special counsel investigation.

When I asked Flores whether she denies that Rosenstein offered his resignation to Kelly, she replied: "My only statement is that Rod is the DAG [Deputy Attorney General]." 

The bottom line: It's unclear whether President Trump will fire Rosenstein if he refuses to resign when they meet on Thursday.

Note for readers: I regret the way I wrote this morning's version of the story. By saying Rosenstein had “verbally resigned” to Kelly rather than “offered his resignation,” I conveyed a certainty that this fluid situation didn’t deserve. It’s an important nuance, and I regret the wording.

Go deeper

6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Kellyanne Conway's parting power pointers

Kellyanne Conway addresses the 2020 Republican National Convention. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

Kellyanne Conway has seen power exercised as a pollster, campaign manager and senior counselor to President Trump. Now that his term in office has concluded, she shared her thoughts with Axios.

Why it matters: If there's a currency in this town, it's power, so we've asked several former Washington power brokers to share their best advice as a new administration and new Congress settle in.

6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

GOP holdouts press on with plans to crush Cheney

Screenshot of emails to a member of Congress from individuals who signed an Americans for Limited Government petition against Rep. Liz Cheney. Photo obtained by Axios

Pro-Trump holdouts in the House are forging ahead with an uphill campaign to oust Rep. Liz Cheney as head of the chamber's Republican caucus even though Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told them to back down.

Why it matters: What happens next will be a test of McCarthy's party control and the sincerity of his opposition to the movement. Cheney (R-Wyo.) is seen as a potential leadership rival to the California Republican.

Democrats aim to punish House GOP for Capitol riot

Speaker Nancy Pelosi passes through a newly installed metal detector at the House floor entrance Thursday. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

House Democrats plan to take advantage of corporate efforts to cut funding for Republicans who opposed certifying the 2020 election results, with a plan to target vulnerable members in the pivotal 2022 midterms for their role in the Jan. 6 violence.

Why it matters: It's unclear whether the Democrats' strategy will manifest itself in ads or earned media in the targeted races or just be a stunt to raise money for themselves. But the Capitol violence will be central to the party's messaging as it seeks to maintain its narrow majorities in Congress.