Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein suggested last year secretly wearing a recording device to record conversations with President Trump, as well as invoking the 25th Amendment to have the President removed from office. The account was reported by The New York Times.
The chaos swirling around the White House in the days immediately after FBI Director James Comey was fired in May 2017 served as the impetus for Rosenstein’s suggestions. The 25th Amendment says a sitting president can be removed from office if they are deemed “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”
Rosenstein has denied the allegations.
“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 second statement was issued by Rosenstein hours after the original one. “I never pursued or authorized recording the President and any suggestion that I have ever advocated for the removal of the President is absolutely false,” it read.
The second statement was issued after the White House demanded a more forceful follow up to the original remarks be made, according to reports.
Rosenstein had only been confirmed as deputy attorney general two weeks prior to an Oval Office meeting between himself, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and President Trump. During that meeting, President Trump announced his intention to fire FBI Director Comey, which caught Rosenstein, Sessions as well as senior White House aides by surprise. The President’s senior advisers had tried to dissuade the President from taking that step.
Rosenstein and Sessions drafted memos laying out reasons Comey should be fired. Their rationale was Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email scandal. The President cited the memos as the reasons for the firing. That left Rosenstein feeling used, even though he volunteered to write the memos.
Soon after Comey’s firing, Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Rosenstein brought the 25th Amendment up during a meeting with Justice Department officials. He told then deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe about the option and that he might be able to convince Attorney General Jeff Sessions and then Department of Homeland Security Secretary, and current White House Chief of Staff, John Kelly to go along.
A person who was in the meetings told The New York Times that Rosenstein made the comments sarcastically. But The Times is saying others who heard Rosenstein’s comments confirmed he was serious, and that Rosenstein also followed up by suggesting others who were interviewing to be the FBI’s new directors should record President Trump as well.
The White House has not commented on the story and has given no indication as to whether the President will fire Rosenstein. Allies of the President’s, most notably on Fox News, have cautioned the President that the issue may be a set up.
“I have a message for the president tonight. Under zero circumstances should the president fire anybody,” said Fox News host Sean Hannity, a strong ally of the President’s.
“They are hoping and praying that the president does just that, that he gets mad, that he gets sick and tired of it…the deep state tonight is crumbling from within at this very hour. They’re now turning against each other,” Hannity added.
The President seemed to make an indirect comment about the controversy late Friday night during a campaign rally in Springfield, Missouri.
“Just look at what is now being exposed in our Department of Justice and the FBI,” he said. “We have great people in the Department of Justice … but you’ve got some really bad ones. You see what’s happened at the FBI. They’re all gone…”
“But there’s a lingering stench, and we’re going to get rid of that, too,” he added.
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