Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, speaking out in a new book and TV interview, detailed the central role he played in the bureau's Russia probe and the eventual appointment of a special counsel -- while reportedly describing Justice Department meetings where officials discussed ousting President Trump.
McCabe, who was fired from the bureau in March 2018 by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions after it was determined he lied to investigators about a leak, spoke to “60 Minutes” ahead of the release of his new book, “The Threat.” CBS News’ Scott Pelley revealed parts of the interview Thursday morning.
The excerpts detail the eight days between the firing of former FBI Director James Comey and the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. After Comey’s firing, McCabe was acting director of the FBI.
“I was speaking to the man who had just run for the presidency and won the election for the presidency and who might have done so with the aid of the government of Russia, our most formidable adversary on the world stage. And that was something that troubled me greatly,” McCabe said in one excerpt, referring to a phone call he had with Trump on May 10, 2017.
McCabe, who also detailed that phone call in his book, took the call from the president while members of the bureau’s Russia team were in the room. The call, according to an excerpt from McCabe’s book published in The Atlantic Thursday, largely focused on Trump celebrating the firing of Comey and saying he was getting positive feedback for the decision.
Pelley went on to ask, “How long was it after that that you decided to start the obstruction of justice and counterintelligence investigations involving the president?”
“I think the next day, I met with the team investigating the Russia cases,” McCabe confirmed. “And I asked the team to go back and conduct an assessment to determine where are we with these efforts and what steps do we need to take going forward.”
He added: “I was very concerned that I was able to put the Russia case on absolutely solid ground in an indelible fashion that were I removed quickly and reassigned or fired and the case could not be closed or vanish in the night without a trace. I wanted to make sure that our case was on solid ground. And if somebody came in behind me and closed it and tried to walk away from it, they would not be able to do that without creating a record of why they’d made that decision.”
Trump fired back on Twitter, blasting McCabe.
In the excerpts of his book, McCabe also detailed his role urging Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint a special counsel.
"He asked for my thoughts about whether we needed a special counsel to oversee the Russia case. I said I thought it would help the investigation’s credibility. Later that day, I went to see Rosenstein again. This is the gist of what I said: I feel strongly that the investigation would be best served by having a special counsel. ... Unless or until you make the decision to appoint a special counsel, the FBI will be subjected to withering criticism that could destroy the credibility of both the Justice Department and the FBI," he wrote.
“Rosenstein was very engaged. He was not yet convinced.” McCabe raised the issue again that weekend.
McCabe went on to detail a meeting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on May 17, 2017.
"Then Rod took over and announced that he had appointed a special counsel to pursue the Russia investigation, and that the special counsel was Robert Mueller," he wrote. "... When I came out of the Capitol, it felt like crossing a finish line. If I got nothing else done as acting director, I had done the one thing I needed to do.”
In the book, as in the interview, McCabe spoke to a desire to protect the Russia investigation no matter what: "I wanted to protect the Russia investigation in such a way that whoever came after me could not just make it go away."
On Thursday, Pelley detailed other portions of his sit-down with McCabe on CBS' "This Morning.” Pelley said McCabe described meetings at the Justice Department after Comey's firing to discuss “whether the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet could be brought together to remove the president under the 25th Amendment.”
“The highest level of American law enforcement were trying to figure out what to do with the president,” Pelley said Thursday.
In September, Fox News reported details about a meeting on May 16, 2017 at Justice Department headquarters, where the same topic was discussed. Sources told Fox News that McCabe, former FBI counsel Lisa Page, and Rosenstein, who was tasked with oversight of the Russia investigation after Sessions’ recusal, were in the room.
Rosenstein reportedly told McCabe that he might be able to persuade Sessions and then-Homeland Security Secretary and now-former chief of staff John Kelly to begin proceedings to invoke the 25th Amendment. Rosenstein adamantly denied the claims at the time.
In reaction to the interview, a Justice Department spokesperson told Fox News that Rosenstein "again rejects Mr. McCabe's recitation of events as inaccurate and factually incorrect."
"The Deputy Attorney General never authorized any recording that Mr. McCabe references. As the Deputy Attorney General previously has stated, based on his personal dealings with the President, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment, nor was the DAG in a position to consider invoking the 25th Amendment," the spokesman said in a statement Thursday. "Finally, the Deputy Attorney General never spoke to Mr. Comey about appointing a Special Counsel. The Deputy Attorney General in fact appointed Special Counsel Mueller, and directed that Mr. McCabe be removed from any participation in that investigation. Subsequent to this removal, DOJ’s Inspector General found that Mr. McCabe did not tell the truth to federal authorities on multiple occasions, leading to his termination from the FBI.”
The book excerpt also includes scathing language from McCabe regarding Trump's conduct in office.
"People do not appreciate how far we have fallen from normal standards of presidential accountability. Today we have a president who is willing not only to comment prejudicially on criminal prosecutions but to comment on ones that potentially affect him. He does both of these things almost daily," he wrote.