Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein suggested to Justice Department colleagues last year that he secretly record conversations with President Donald Trump in the White House, but at least one person who was present said he was joking.
The conversation was first reported by the New York Times, which described secondhand accounts suggesting Rosenstein was serious about the proposal. The report said he also discussed identifying cabinet members willing to invoke the 25th Amendment, which provides for the removal of a president who’s unfit for office.
The person who was in the room when Rosenstein made the comment about wearing a wire said there was never an intention of actually recording a conversation with the president. The person asked not to be identified.
Rosenstein disputed the Times account of the comments, which it reported he made just weeks after becoming deputy attorney general and being caught up in the uproar over Trump’s dismissal of FBI Director James Comey.
“The New York Times’s story is inaccurate and factually incorrect,” he said in a statement to the Times. “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.”
The report is explosive because Rosenstein appointed Special Counsel Robert Mueller. If Rosenstein is fired or quits, a successor could rein in or end the probe into Russian election interference that the president has long denounced as a “witch hunt” initiated by anti-Trump forces in the FBI and the Justice Department.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer quickly warned Trump against seizing on the report as a reason to dismiss Rosenstein.
“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 interfere with the Special Counsel’s investigation,” Schumer said in a statement. He added that many “White House and cabinet officials have been reported to say critical things of the president without being fired.”
The White House declined immediate comment, but the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., tweeted: “Shocked!!! Absolutely Shocked!!! Ohhh, who are we kidding at this point? No one is shocked that these guys would do anything in their power to undermine @realDonaldTrump. ”
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SOURCE: Bloomberg – Chris Strohm