A new report claims Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein offered to secretly tape President Donald Trump inside the Oval Office and wanted to “recruit” top administration officials to oust the president with a vote among Cabinet leaders.
The New York Times writes that Rosenstein shared these plans with “other Justice Department and FBI officials,” all of whom relayed their accounts to the paper anonymously.
In a spring 2017 meeting with fellow Justice Department and FBI officials, Rosenstein reportedly made the explosive suggestion of recording the president, and while the plot never materialized, he reportedly told then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe that he believed it was possible to convince Attorney General Jeff Sessions and then-Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to later invoke the 25th Amendment.
Rosenstein denied the story in a statement to the New York Times. A DOJ spokeswoman, curiously, did not deny that Rosenstein suggested secretly taping Trump but instead provided an anonymous eyewitness who suggested the remark was in jest.
“The New York Times’s story is inaccurate and factually incorrect,” he said in a statement. “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. But let me be clear about this: Based on my personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment.”
A Justice Department spokeswoman also provided a statement from a person who was present when Mr. Rosenstein proposed wearing a wire. The person, who would not be named, acknowledged the remark but said Mr. Rosenstein made it sarcastically.
But according to the others who described his comments, Mr. Rosenstein not only confirmed that he was serious about the idea but also followed up by suggesting that other F.B.I. officials who were interviewing to be the bureau’s director could also secretly record Mr. Trump.
Rosenstein, a mere two weeks into his duties overseeing the Russia investigation, began mulling plans to record the president after FBI Director James Comes was fired in May, according to the report.
President Trump had met with Rosenstein and Sessions to inform them of his plans to relieve Comey of his duties and tasked the former with penning a memo justifying the move.
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 worried his reputation was being sullied by the move.
In conversations with allies, the report continues, the deputy attorney general vowed he would be “vindicated” for the memo being pinned on him. Later, Rosenstein, McCabe, along with four other FBI officials met to discuss the White House’s plans to replace the newly-removed FBI head.
During the meeting, the Times says, Rosenstein raised the prospect of donning a “wire,” prompting others in the room to inquire if the offer was genuine. Rosenstein then proposed other top FBI officials, including McCabe, wear a wire, according to the report. He is said to have assured the meeting participants that this act would not be difficult because White House security had previously not bothered to inspect his cell phone while entering the Oval Office.
During a May 12 meeting with McCabe, Rosenstein reportedly expressed regret concerning his decision to draft the memo used to justify Comey’s firing. The events surrounding Rosenstein were detailed in memos written by various FBI officials, including McCabe, according to the Times. While McCabe would not personally comment on the matter, Michael R. Bromwich, an attorney for the former FBI official, said his client “has no knowledge of how any member of the media obtained those memos.”
‘“A set of those memos remained at the F.B.I. at the time of his departure in late January 2018,” the attorney noted.
The report detailing Rosenstein’s ambitions to help remove President Trump from the White House comes just days after the Commander-in-Chief said ridding the FBI of corruption would be “one of my crowning achievements.”
“We have tremendous support by the way, to expose something that is truly a cancer in our country,” President Trump said of the move during an interview with The Hill.
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