- The Washington Times - Friday, September 21, 2018

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein last year talked about secretly recording President Trump and discussed having Cabinet members invoke the 25th Amendment to remove him from office, The New York Times reported Friday.

The Times article saidMr. Rosenstein pushed for these practices in spring 2017, just after Mr. Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey. Mr. Rosenstein reportedly became concerned because the president had allegedly leaked classified information to Russians, asked Mr. Comey for a loyalty pledge and demanded the Justice Department end an investigation into a senior aide, the New York Times reported.

In addition, Mr. Rosenstein was surprised to learn Mr. Trump used a memo he had written criticizing Mr. Comey’s handling of the Clinton investigation as justification to fire the ex-FBI director. That made Mr. Rosenstein angry, because he was widely criticized for the memo and felt it harmed his reputation, according to the report.

The Times cited several sources saying Mr. Rosenstein made remarks about secretly recording Mr. Trump and invoking the 25th Amendment. Those sources were briefed on events themselves or told about memos written by top FBI officials, including former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, documenting Mr. Rosenstein’s words and actions.

The 25th Amendment can be invoked by Cabinet members to remove the president if he is deemed unfit for office.

Mr. Rosenstein denied the report.

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 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.”

Later Friday night, Mr. Rosenstein issued a more forceful denial.

“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,” the statement said.

A Justice Department spokeswoman provided a statement from an unnamed person who was present when Mr. Rosenstein suggested wearing a wire for a meeting with the president. The person said Mr. Rosenstein made the remark, but did so sarcastically.

It is not clear how determined Mr. Rosenstein, who was just two weeks into his job when he allegedly made the suggestions, was to invoke the 25th Amendment. The Times reported Mr. Rosenstein told Mr. McCabe he could persuade Attorney General Jeff Sessions and John F. Kelly, now the White House chief of staff, to invoke the 25th Amendment.

In a statement, Mr. McCabe’s attorney, Michael Bromwich, said all of his client’s memos have been turned over to special counsel Robert Mueller, who is probing whether Trump associates conspired with Russia to meddle in the 2016 election.

“A set of those memos remained at the FBI at the time of his departure in late 2018,” the statement said. “He has no knowledge of how any member of the media obtained those memos.”

Mr. McCabe’s memos suggested that Mr. Rosenstein regretted the firing of Mr. Comey, the Times reported. In a May 12 memo, Mr. McCabe described Mr. Rosenstein as “upset and emotional,” saying he wished Mr. Comey were still at the FBI, the article said.

The Times also reported Mr. Rosenstein was frustrated that the president wasn’t taking candidate interviews for Mr. Comey seriously and viewed the hiring process as typical of the broader dysfunction at the White House.

Mr. Rosenstein’s alleged discussions about invoking the 25th Amendment follows the publication of an anonymous opinion piece in the Times this month claiming Cabinet officials had discussed using it to remove the president.

Some on the left worry that Mr. Trump will use the story to justify firing Mr. Rosenstein, who has been a frequent target of the president. Mr. Rosenstein, who oversees the Mueller investigation, has long been rumored to be on the chopping block.

Mr. Sessions has recused himself from the Russia probe, so if Mr. Rosenstein goes, Mr. Mueller would be reporting to Solicitor General Noel Francisco. That could create conflict-of-interest concerns since Mr. Francisco has criticized the government for overreach in political corruption cases.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said firing Mr. Rosenstein would be viewed as an attempt by the president to undermine the Mueller probe.

“This story must not be used as a pretext for the corrupt purpose of firing Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein in order to install an official who will allow the president to interference with the special counsel’s investigation,” Mr. Schumer said in a statement Friday. “Generals Kelly, Mattis and numerous other White House and Cabinet officials have been reported to say things critical of the president without being fired.”

Some on the left worry that Mr. Trump will use the story to justify firing Mr. Rosenstein, who has been a frequent target of the president. Mr. Rosenstein, who oversees the Mueller investigation, has long been rumored to be on the chopping block.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from the Russia probe so if Mr. Rosenstein goes, Mr. Mueller would be reporting to Solicitor General Noel Francisco. That could create conflict of interest concerns since Mr. Francisco has criticized the government for overreach in political corruption cases.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, New York Democrat, in a statement, said Mr. Rosenstein’s firing will be viewed as an attempt by the president to undermine the Mueller probe.

“This story must not be used as a pretext for the corrupt purpose of firing Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein in order to install an official who will allow the president to interference with the Special Counsel’s investigation,” Mr. Schumer said. “Generals Kelly, Mattis and numerous other White House and cabinet officials have been reported to say things critical of the president without being fired.”


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