Rosenstein claims that he was joking, but there were people in the room who took his comment serious.
The New York Times reported last month that in 2017 Rosenstein had ‘joked’ about secretly recording the president’s communications and later using the tapes to oust Trump from office by invoking the 25th Amendment, which allows the cabinet to declare a president unfit for duty.
Sources told Fox News that the meeting where Rosenstein allegedly made the comments about wearing a “wire” took place at the Justice Department on May 16, 2017. Several people were in the room, including former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and former FBI counsel Lisa Page. Special Counsel Robert Mueller was appointed the next day. The details in the Times article were confirmed by sources who were briefed on the discussions and memos written about the discussions by McCabe and others.
The scoop was quickly shot down, as people involved in discussion assured that the remark was sarcastic and not an invitation for a palace coup. Speculation that Trump would retaliate against Rosenstein by firing him likewise never materialized.
The story made a surprise comeback on Tuesday, after some outlets – including The Hill, Fox News and the Washington Post – reported that the wiretapping suggestion may have been done in earnest. At least that was the impression of FBI’s top legal counsel James Baker, who was approached about the suggestion by the bureau’s then-acting director Andrew McCabe and ‘Russiagate’ investigation lawyer Lisa Page.
Baker spoke about the 2017 discussions to a closed congressional hearing last week. According to Baker, the proposal to record Trump was not “an official one” and was dismissed by senior FBI and DOJ officials “within a couple of days,” the Post reported. Rosenstein was expected to be interviewed by the lawmakers on Thursday, but that hearing is still up in the air.
Rosenstein reportedly made the controversial remark in May 2017, just before appointing Special Counsel Robert Mueller to investigate allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election. Both McCabe and Page were among the people present at the meeting. The Times bombshell was apparently based on memos McCabe compiled while in office, which were later turned over to Mueller and leaked to the media.
After Rod Rosenstein suggesting taping President Trump, other bureau officials took idea seriously — and it was presented to an FBI lawyer for his opinion, according to testimony heard on the Hill last week. w/@DevlinBarrett, @mattzap & @nakashimae: https://t.co/PgcUCkw4Rc
— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) October 9, 2018
The Hill’s John Solomon suggested that since the wiretapping discussion was made around the time Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, the officials in the bureau may have sought retribution against the president.
McCabe was fired in March this year for lack of candor, while Page resigned from the FBI after an internal investigation unearthed thousands of text messages between her and agent Peter Strzok, evidence of both their extramarital affair and partisanship against Trump.
The 25th Amendment was passed after the assassination of President John Kennedy and was meant to establish the rules for replacing a president or a vice president in an emergency, avoiding situations like the incapacitation of President James Garfield, who continued to hold his office for over two months while dying from a wound received from an assassin’s bullet in 1881.
The possibility of using the amendment to unseat a healthy but undesired president has been explored in US television programs, most recently in the season 7 of the spy drama Homeland. In the series, President Elizabeth Keane graciously resigns in favor of her VP to preserve American unity.
When news broke about Rosenstein’s comment to wiretap President Trump everyone was sure that he would be fired but Trump said Rosenstein still has a job.
Fox News reports:
President Trump met aboard Air Force One with Rod Rosenstein on Monday, for a long-awaited sit-down in the wake of last month’s bombshell report that the deputy attorney general suggested wearing a wire to secretly record the president and even invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office.
Trump and Rosenstein met for a half-hour, according to the White House, en route to the International Association of Chiefs of Police Annual Convention in Orlando, Fla.
Their meeting had been repeatedly delayed amid the chaotic Brett Kavanaugh confirmation process. But White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley told reporters the president talked to Rosenstein for “roughly 30 minutes” — and confirmed that “yes,” Rosenstein still has his job in the administration.
On the tarmac in Orlando, Trump said the conversation with Rosenstein was “great!”
The meeting came after The New York Times published a story last month about Rosenstein’s alleged plotting in the wake of James Comey’s firing from the FBI last year.