Allies of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein were quick to rally around the deputy attorney general after a Friday report in The New York Times that accused him of considering secretly recording President Donald Trump and possibly using the Constitution to oust him from office.
The report claimed that Rosenstein wanted to record Trump “to expose the chaos consuming the administration, and he discussed recruiting cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Mr. Trump from office for being unfit.”
“Mr. Rosenstein made these suggestions in the spring of 2017 when Mr. Trump’s firing of James B. Comey as F.B.I. director plunged the White House into turmoil,” the report claimed. “Over the ensuing days, the president divulged classified intelligence to Russians in the Oval Office, and revelations emerged that Mr. Trump had asked Mr. Comey to pledge loyalty and end an investigation into a senior aide.”
According to the report, Rosenstein was willing to wear a “wire” — something the paper admitted was a “remarkable” step usually used in “targeting drug kingpins and Mafia bosses in criminal investigations, not a president viewed as ineffectively conducting his duties” — because he didn’t believe Trump was taking the search for an FBI director to replace Comey seriously enough.
In a discussion with senior Justice Department officials, including former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, according to The Times, “Mr. Rosenstein expressed frustration at how Mr. Trump had conducted the search for a new F.B.I. director, saying the president was failing to take the candidate interviews seriously. A handful of politicians and law enforcement officials, including Mr. McCabe, were under consideration.”
“To Mr. Rosenstein, the hiring process was emblematic of broader dysfunction stemming from the White House. He said both the process and the administration itself were in disarray, according to two people familiar with the discussion,” the article stated.
“Mr. Rosenstein then raised the idea of wearing a recording device, or ‘wire,’ as he put it, to secretly tape the president when he visited the White House,” the report continued. “One participant asked whether Mr. Rosenstein was serious, and he replied animatedly that he was.”
Allies of Rosenstein, however, quickly came forward to say this was merely a joke.
“People close to Rosenstein said he likely made the comments described in the report in jest. One person who was in the room when Rosenstein suggested wearing a wire to record Trump said the remark was ‘sarcastic,'” Politico reported.
“I remember this meeting and remember the wire comment. The statement was sarcastic and was never discussed with any intention of recording a conversation with the president,” a source told Politico.
At least two former Justice Department officials came to Rosenstein’s defense, with one telling Politico Rosenstein was likely speaking “in jest.”
Another said the story didn’t make sense.
According to Politico, the former official said, “(k)nowing Rod, the two big pieces of that story just don’t add up.”
“The former official said Rosenstein would’ve recognized the math of invoking the 25th Amendment — requiring a majority of the Cabinet, the vice president and majorities in Congress — would’ve been virtually impossible,” Politico reported.
So, wait — either The New York Times is reporting “fake news” or Politico is. But I thought the American media never did that and it was an assault on the free press and the First Amendment to suggest otherwise!
I’m so confused.
For his part, Rosenstein issued two denials. The first, issued with The Times’ piece, read: “The New York Times’s story is inaccurate and factually incorrect. 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.”
After that seemed too vague for some, he clarified further: “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.”
That might be true, and The Times story — bombshell though it is — might be overblown. But there’s no doubt that for Rosenstein, even being part of the discussion and could indicate bias against Trump by the man who’s now overseeing the special counsel’s investigation into alleged “Russian collusion” with the Trump presidential campaign.
Whatever the case may be, it’s likely the beginning of a long few weeks for the deputy attorney general.
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