Former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe said in a television interview Tuesday that he briefed congressional leadership in 2017 about the bureau’s counterintelligence investigation into President Trump, but claimed none of the lawmakers – including then-House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – objected to it.
“Did you order a counterintelligence investigation into the president?” NBC’s Savannah Guthrie asked McCabe, who is promoting his new book, on “Today.”
“I did,” McCabe replied.
McCabe went on to describe how, after Trump fired then-FBI director James Comey in May 2017, he briefed the so-called bipartisan “Gang of 8” congressional leaders about the FBI's decision to open a counterintelligence investigation to probe the president's relationship with Russia. Trump has repeatedly denied the accusation his campaign colluded with the Russians to win.
“The purpose of the briefing was to let our congressional leadership know exactly what we had been doing,” McCabe said.
Asked if anyone in Congress objected to the investigation, McCabe said, “I told Congress what we had done…no one objected. Not on legal grounds, not on constitutional grounds and not based on the facts.”
But one member of congressional leadership told Fox News on Tuesday that McCabe's claim is confusing, because by May 2017, it was already known that the FBI counterintelligence investigation into Trump and his campaign had begun nearly a year earlier.
In May 2017, however, the investigation was about to be turned over to Special Counsel Robert Mueller. In his book, McCabe details a meeting during that period with top lawmakers, during which Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the appointment. It's unclear whether the meeting in question, then, went into greater detail about the nature of the investigation itself.
In addition to Ryan and McConnell, other top members of the "Gang of 8" included House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer.
McCabe was fired by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions last year after an inspector general report said McCabe lied about leaking to reporters about the FBI's investigation of Hillary Clinton's emails.
Meanwhile, Trump on Monday accused McCabe and Rosenstein of pursuing an “illegal and treasonous” plot against him, after McCabe detailed private DOJ discussions about secretly recording and potentially ousting the president.
The alleged discussions have been a subject of fierce debate – and conflicting accounts – for months. But McCabe revived the issue during promotional interviews for his forthcoming book, telling CBS News' "60 Minutes" that Rosenstein was “absolutely serious” when he suggested recording Trump in the tumultuous days following Comey's firing as FBI director.
Trump seethed on Twitter over the comments, calling McCabe a liar before lashing out at top DOJ and FBI officials, including ousted Attorney General Jeff Sessions, for what he described as a “deranged” plan.
“He and Rod Rosenstein, who was hired by Jeff Sessions (another beauty), look like they were planning a very illegal act, and got caught … There is a lot of explaining to do to the millions of people who had just elected a president who they really like and who has done a great job for them with the Military, Vets, Economy and so much more. This was the illegal and treasonous ‘insurance policy’ in full action!” he tweeted.
Rosenstein repeatedly has denied he "pursued or authorized recording the president" and also has denied McCabe's suggestion that the deputy attorney general had broached the idea of invoking the Constitution's 25th Amendment, which allows Cabinet members to seek the removal of a president if they conclude that he or she is mentally unfit. The Justice Department echoed both denials in a statement released last week, saying Rosenstein "was not in a position to consider invoking the 25th Amendment."
Yet McCabe said in the interview, "Rod raised the [25th Amendment] issue and discussed it with me in the context of thinking about how many other Cabinet officials might support such an effort.” He added that he believed Rosenstein was "counting votes or possible votes" to remove Trump from office.
Fox News reported Sunday that former FBI lawyer James Baker, in his testimony to Congress, provided even more details about the alleged 25th Amendment discussions – saying two Cabinet officials were “ready to support” such an effort.
Fox News’ Catherine Herridge, Judson Berger and Samuel Chamberlain contributed to this report.