Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein discussed using the 25th Amendment to remove President Donald Trump from power, and wearing a wire to record his conversations with Trump, The New York Times reported Friday.
Rosenstein reportedly first raised these ideas in the spring of 2017 after Trump revealed classified intelligence to Russian officials in an Oval Office meeting and fired FBI Director James Comey.
In a statement to the Times, Rosenstein fully denied ever having considered an effort to invoke the 25th Amendment or record Trump.
Rosenstein first raised the question of the 25th amendment and considered wearing a wire in the spring of 2017, The Times said, citing sources in the Department of Justice and FBI who were present in conversations with Rosenstein or were briefed on memos that former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe wrote about Rosenstein.
While Rosenstein himself does not have the authority to invoke the 25th amendment — a power belonging only to Cabinet officials — he reportedly planned to convince Attorney General Jeff Sessions and White House chief of staff John Kelly, who are members of the Cabinet, to lead an effort to remove Trump from office.
In spring 2017, Trump revealed classified intelligence to Russian officials in the Oval Office, and fired FBI Director James Comey following interactions in which Comey refused to pledge his loyalty to the president and declined to drop an investigation into campaign official Michael Flynn, who later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.
In justifying firing Comey, Trump cited a memo Rosenstein wrote that criticized Comey's handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, reportedly leading Rosenstein to believe Trump had "used" him.
In a statement to The Times, Rosenstein thoroughly denied ever discussing plans for removing Trump, or considering wearing a wire.
"The New York Times’s story is inaccurate and factually incorrect,” he said. "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."
Rosenstein is a frequent target for Trump's frustration with the Russia investigation
Rosenstein and Sessions have been frequent targets of Trump's ire since the special counsel Robert Mueller was first tapped to oversee the FBI's Russia investigation last May.
Mueller is tasked with probing Russia's interference in the 2016 election and whether members of Trump's campaign colluded with Moscow to tilt the race in his favor. Mueller is also building an obstruction-of-justice case against the president that stems from his decision to oust Comey last year.
Rosenstein has been overseeing the probe since Sessions had to recuse himself after it emerged that he failed to disclose meetings he had with Sergey Kislyak, then Russia's ambassador to the US, during the 2016 campaign.
Trump often rails against Rosenstein, Sessions, and the Justice Department at large, according to various media reports. At one point, he is said to have wondered why "my guys" at the "Trump Justice Department" weren't doing more to shield him from Mueller.
His anger toward Rosenstein ratcheted up another notch in April, after it emerged that Rosenstein greenlit an FBI raid on the property of Michael Cohen, then Trump's longtime lawyer.
Cohen has since pleaded guilty to eight counts related to tax evasion, bank fraud, and campaign finance violations. He is now cooperating with prosecutors at the Southern District of New York as well as Mueller's team.
Following the Cohen raid, Trump privately began wondering whether he should fire Rosenstein, The New York Times reported.
"He takes the Russia stuff as a political hit job," the news website Axios quoted a source close to Trump as saying. The Cohen raid "was a personal affront" and "the red line," this person added.
Some of Trump's legal advisers have also argued that they have a strong case to support Rosenstein's firing, CNN reported.
According to the report, they believe they can prove that Rosenstein has overstepped his authority and that he is conflicted because he is also a witness in the Russia investigation, given that he recommended Trump fire Comey last year.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on The Times' report Friday.
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