After FBI Director James Comey was fired in 2017, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein suggested secretly recording President Donald Trump hoping to trigger a constitutional amendment to have him removed from office.
The report, from The New York Times, is denied by Rosenstein, who is overseeing Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The proposals did not come to fruition, the Times said. The Washington Post also reported the discussions, citing memos written by McCabe.
McCabe has no knowledge of how the memos were made available, said his lawyer Michael Bromwich.
Rosenstein denied the Times story as “inaccurate and factually incorrect” in a statement that also blamed anonymous sources promoting personal agendas.
There was no immediate reaction to the report from the White House or Trump, who was flying to Springfield, Missouri, from Las Vegas on Friday for a rally.
A Justice Department spokeswoman also provided a statement from a person who would not be identified and was present when Rosenstein proposed wearing a wire to record Trump, the Times said. The person said Rosenstein made the remark sarcastically.
Rosenstein initiated discussions about the U.S. Constitution’s 25th Amendment, the Times and Post reported. The amendment deals with presidential succession and disability and outlines how the Cabinet can decide whether a president can no longer do his job.
The Times said Rosenstein told Justice Department and FBI officials the secret recordings could be used to expose the chaos of the administration after revelations that Trump asked Comey to pledge loyalty to him and also divulged classified information to Russians in the Oval Office.
Rosenstein has been a frequent punching bag for Trump supporters for appointing Special Counsel Robert Mueller in May 2017 to take over a federal probe of suspected Russian meddling in the U.S. election and potential coordination between Moscow and the Trump campaign.
The FBI’s Comey led the investigation until he was dismissed.
The president, who regularly characterizes the probe as a “witch hunt,” has denied any collusion with Moscow, while Russia has denied interfering in the election.
Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the U.S. Senate, said in a statement the newspaper report should not be used as a pretext to fire Rosenstein to install “an official who will allow the president to interfere with the special counsel’s investigation.”
After Rosenstein wrote a memo critical of Comey’s handling of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s email investigation, Trump used it as a basis for firing Comey. Rosenstein had told people he was caught off guard and felt he had been used, according to the Times.
Rosenstein told McCabe, who was also later fired by Trump, that he might be able to persuade Attorney General Jeff Sessions and John Kelly, the former homeland security secretary and current White House chief of staff, to invoke the 25th Amendment, the Times said. Sessions in March 2017 recused himself from the Russia matter, citing his service on the Trump campaign.
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