U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told President Donald Trump last week that he was not a target of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia
investigation, according to a source familiar with the probe.
After the April 12 conversation with Rosenstein, Trump told advisers that he was not inclined to seek the ouster of either man since he was not a target of Mueller's probe.
Bloomberg first reported the conversation.
The Justice Department told Reuters it does not comment on conversations with the president. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
Mueller is investigating allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.
Russia has denied meddling in the election. Trump has said there was no collusion and has repeatedly called the Mueller probe a "witch hunt," raising concerns he might try to fire the special counsel or Rosenstein, who oversees the investigation.
Under Justice Department policy, a target is someone who is believed to have committed a crime and is likely to face charges, while a subject is someone whose conduct is within the scope of an investigation, said Lisa Kern Griffin, a former federal prosecutor and a professor at Duke University School of Law.
The Washington Post reported this month that Trump was a subject of the probe.
Griffin said the assurance from Rosenstein was not significant, because the president could yet become a target of the investigation.
"It is possible to progress from being a subject to being a target if the necessary substantive and structural support emerges later," she said.
Griffin said one reason Trump was being treated as a subject, rather than a target, might be that Rosenstein was operating under the assumption that a sitting president cannot be indicted.