A senior White House official also backed up Hannity’s more cautious tone by warning against any dramatic action. In an interview, the official called Rosenstein a “straight shooter” and said his denial of the facts outlined by the New York Times was believable.

Meanwhile, there was a growing sense inside the West Wing that the story was planted by leakers on former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe’s team, designed to bait Trump into firing Rosenstein ahead of the midterm elections and then suffer the political consequences. (A spokesman for McCabe has strongly denied leaking any of his memos to the press.)

While Trump allies are unanimous in their view that Rosenstein is highly compromised, they expressed concerns that Democrats could seize on Rosenstein’s dismissal to impeach the president — and that the New York Times may be part of a broader plan, along with anti-Trump government officials, to lure the president into committing an impeachable offense.