Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein last year suggested secretly recording President Donald Trump and using the 25th Amendment to forcibly remove him from office, the New York Times reported Friday afternoon.
The extraordinary stories describe an unprecedented consideration of the invocation of the 25th Amendment, may further jeopardize Rosenstein’s position within the administration, and paint him in a deeply unflattering light even as they further call into question Trump’s fitness for office.
Per the reports, Rosenstein’s suggestions came in the chaotic aftermath of Trump’s May 2017 move to abruptly fire James Comey as FBI director. Rosenstein spoke to other Justice Department and FBI officials about his concerns, some of which were memorialized in McCabe’s memos, sources told the news outlets.
Efforts to declare the president incapable of holding office would have required recruiting members of Trump’s own cabinet to the cause. Rosenstein told McCabe that he believed he could persuade Attorney General Jeff Sessions and John Kelly to join this effort, the Times reported.
The Times’ sources appeared to be critical of Rosenstein’s performance in his role:
In the end, the idea went nowhere, the officials said. But they called Mr. Rosenstein’s comments an example of how erratically he was behaving while he was taking part in the interviews for a replacement F.B.I. director, considering the appointment of a special counsel and otherwise running the day-to-day operations of the more than 100,000 people at the Justice Department.
In a statement to the newspaper, Rosenstein called the story “inaccurate and factually incorrect.”
“I will not further comment on a story based on anonymous sources who are obviously biased against the department and are advancing their own personal agenda,” he said. “But let me be clear about this: Based on my personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment.”
Sources who spoke to the Post and ABC said that Rosenstein never actually intended to record the president, and was just making a sarcastic comment. Per the Post, after McCabe described pushing for the Justice Department to open a probe into the president, Rosenstein reportedly cracked, “What do you want to do, Andy, wire the president?”
McCabe’s attorney, Michael R. Bromwich, released a statement saying his client did not leak the memos he made while at the FBI.
“Andrew McCabe drafted memos to memorialize significant discussions he had with high level officials and preserved them so he would have an accurate, contemporaneous record of those discussions,” the statement read. “When he was interviewed by the Special Counsel more than a year ago, he gave all of his memos — classified and unclassified — to the Special Counsel’s office. A set of those memos remained at the FBI at the time of his departure in late January 2018. He has no knowledge of how any member of the media obtained those memos.”
The bombshell stories are the latest example of the rocky relationship between Trump and the senior officials who run the Justice Department and FBI.
Rosenstein assumed oversight of the federal investigation into Russia’s election interference last year, after Sessions recused himself due to his own contacts with Russian officials during the campaign. Shortly after, he appointed Robert Mueller as the special counsel tasked with probing all matters related to Russian interference and possible coordination with the Trump campaign.
Trump has publicly lashed out at both Rosenstein and Sessions ever since, blaming them for fueling what he called a “witch hunt” bent on undermining his administration.