President Trump on Monday accused Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe 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 James 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.
“Insurance policy” is a reference to texts between former FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page discussing such a policy, without elaborating – the text was widely suspected of referring to aspects of the Russia collusion probe.
While Trump fumed at McCabe, the former FBI deputy director claimed he "never actually considered taking [Rosenstein] up on the offer." He said he did discuss the matter with the FBI's then-general counsel, James A. Baker. Last fall, as reported by Fox News, Baker told lawmakers during a closed-door deposition that McCabe and Page came to Baker "contemporaneously" and told him details of the meeting where Rosenstein made the comments. Baker told congressional investigators he took the word of McCabe and Page "seriously."
McCabe told CBS News that "I think the general counsel had a heart attack" when he told him of Rosenstein's plan.
"And when he got up off the floor, he said, 'I, I, that's a bridge too far. We're not there yet,'" McCabe added. Days later, Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a special counsel to oversee the bureau's investigation into allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.
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 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.
“I was being told by some combination of Andy McCabe and Lisa Page, that, in a conversation with the Deputy Attorney General, he had stated that he -- this was what was related to me -- that he had at least two members of the president’s Cabinet who were ready to support, I guess you would call it, an action under the 25th Amendment,” Baker testified.
Fox News’ Catherine Herridge contributed to this report.