US Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein denied a New York Times report Friday (Saturday NZ time) that he suggested he secretly recorded US President Donald Trump previous year to expose chaos in the administration and he floated the idea of using the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.
Rosenstein has been a frequent punching bag for Trump supporters for appointing Special Counsel Robert Mueller in May 2017 to take over a federal probe of suspected Russian meddling in the US election and potential coordination between Moscow and the Trump campaign.
The plan was pondered shortly after Comey was dismissed and a memo from Rosenstein was used to oust him; something that caught Rosenstein off guard and left him feeling used. The person, who would not be named, acknowledged the remark but said Rosenstein made it sarcastically.
Another source disputed that.
He also suggested that McCabe and other officials who were interviewing to become the next Federal Bureau of Investigation director could also perhaps record Trump, the newspaper reported. According to the Times, Rosenstein told four Justice Department officials, plus then-Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, that the president wasn't taking the process seriously. Politico reported that the White House knew about the story at least 24 hours before it broke. The president has also been reported on a number of occasions to be considering firing Rosenstein as part of an effort to kneecap special counsel Robert Mueller, who has been leading the Russian Federation probe since former FBI Director James Comey was sacked in May 2017.
Rosenstein initiated discussions about the U.S. Constitution's 25th Amendment, the Times and Post reported.
In the ensuing days, the president and other members of his administration cited the memo to rationalize Comey's ouster, angering Rosenstein, who is said to have grown increasingly anxious his reputation was being sullied by the move.
Rosenstein then raised the idea of wearing a recording device or "wire", as he put it, to secretly tape the President when he visited the White House.
At that point, Rosenstein said to McCabe something to the effect of, "What do you want, you want me to wear a wire?" according to the person.
While the Rosenstein story by the Times sent shockwaves on Friday afternoon, independent journalist Marcy Wheeler anxious that reporting now "gives Trump his excuse to fire" the Deputy Attorney General.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein speaks during a news conference at the Department of Justice on July 13, 2018.
He noted that Rosenstein never specifically denied bringing up the 25th amendment, merely that he now sees "no basis" to invoke it now. He also initiated discussions about invoking the 25th amendment, which details how the Cabinet can decide whether a president is no longer able to discharge the duties of the job, one of the McCabe memos said. One of the career civil servants was Scott Schools, who would later go on to sign off on the firing of McCabe, the official said. 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.