Tuesday, February 19, 2019 | ePaper
US official in Russia probe suggested taping Trump: Report
The US official who oversees the federal investigation into Russia's role in the 2016 U.S. election suggested secretly recording President Donald Trump last year and recruiting Cabinet members to invoke a constitutional amendment to remove him from the White House, the New York Times reported on Friday.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein made the suggestions in the spring of 2017 after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, the newspaper said, citing its sources as people who were briefed on the events themselves or on memos written by FBI officials including Andrew McCabe, who became acting director when Comey was dismissed.
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.
The White House did not immediately react to the reports, and Trump did not respond to shouted questions from reporters about whether he would fire Rosenstein as he arrived in Springfield, Missouri, for a rally.
Later he alluded to his quarrels with personnel at the Justice Department, telling a packed rally for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Josh Hawley, "Just look at what is being exposed in our Justice Department."
"We have great people in the Department of Justice. ... But you've got some real bad ones. You've seen what's happened at the FBI. They're all gone," he said. "But there's a lingering stench and we're going to get rid of that, too."
A Justice Department spokeswoman 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.