By Brooke Singman
Published February 15, 2019
A spokesperson for former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe sought to downplay the significance and scope of Justice Department discussions about using the 25th Amendment to remove President Trump from office, as Republicans demanded he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein be called to testify on the issue.
McCabe had stirred up the issue once again during media interviews surrounding his forthcoming tell-all book. He reportedly reiterated claims that meetings were held to discuss whether Cabinet officials could support removing the president.
On Friday, Reps. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Mark Meadows, R-N.C., urged Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., to call McCabe and Rosenstein to testify.
"The Committee should hear from both of them so our Members and the American people can determine what to believe," they wrote.
But McCabe spokeswoman Melissa Schwartz, in a statement regarding McCabe's "60 Minutes" interview and following the release of excerpts from his book "The Threat," claimed he'd been taken out of context -- and he was not aware of any "extended" discussions about the 25th Amendment.
“Certain statements made by Mr. McCabe, in interviews associated with the release of his book, have been taken out of context and misrepresented,” she said.
“To clarify, at no time did Mr. McCabe participate in any extended discussions about the use of the 25th Amendment, nor is he aware of any such discussions,” she continued. “He was present and participated in a discussion that included a comment by Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein regarding the 25th Amendment.”
She added: “This anecdote was not included in 'The Threat,' Mr. McCabe has merely confirmed a discussion that was initially reported elsewhere.”
Schwartz’s statement comes after CBS News’ Scott Pelley, who conducted the interview with McCabe, detailed portions of his sit-down on “CBS This Morning.” Pelley said that McCabe described meetings at the Justice Department after Trump fired then-FBI Director James Comey 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 on Thursday.
In September, Fox News reported details of a meeting on May 16, 2017 at the Justice Department’s headquarters, where the 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 former Attorney General Jeff 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 reported McCabe comments this week, 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.
But Fox News reported last October that former FBI General Counsel James A. Baker told congressional investigators during a closed-door deposition that McCabe and Page came to Baker "contemporaneously" and relayed details of the meeting -- and that they believed Rosenstein was serious when he discussed secretly recording Trump and invoking the 25th Amendment.
Amid the back-and-forth, lawmakers are considering bringing current and former Justice Department and FBI officials to testify on Capitol Hill to get to the bottom of the controversy.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told Fox News on Thursday that he would not rule out subpoenaing officials like Rosenstein, McCabe and Comey.
“Yeah, I’d like to know what happened,” he said. “I mean, you’re having a conversation about whether or not you’re gonna invoke the 25th Amendment. I would imagine if the shoe was on the other foot, my Democratic colleagues would want to know about that conversation if it involved a Democrat.”
He added: “I absolutely want to hear from [Rosenstein] at an appropriate time.”
“What is McCabe trying to tell us? That I was going to save the country from Donald Trump? That he believed his job was not to be the acting director of the FBI but basically to protect the country against Donald Trump?” Graham said during an interview with Fox News Thursday. “My question is in his zeal to be the hero here. Did he abuse the law? Did he take the law in his own hands? Did they use investigative techniques that are illegal or quite frankly, unethical?”
He continued: “So whether the Democrats like it or not, the Senate Judiciary Committee is going to look into the 2016 election and ask questions of McCabe and Comey and others about their conduct, because what I’ve seen thus far really bothers me.”
Fox News’ Jason Donner contributed to this report.