Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein proposed secretly recording conversations in the Oval Office with President Trump last year and discussed the possibility of Cabinet officials invoking the 25th Amendment to remove the president, according to a New York Times report.
The bombshell story sparked a political firestorm Friday afternoon, prompting an immediate denial from the Justice Department and sparking calls from conservative circles for Trump to fire his No. 2 law enforcement official.
The Times, citing people familiar with the matter, reported on Friday that Rosenstein made comments to other Justice Department officials in meetings in spring 2017 about secretly recording Trump after the president fired FBI Director James Comey that May.
The allegations are said to be laid out in contemporaneous memos written by then-acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, who was fired by the Justice Department earlier this year amid an internal leak probe.
Rosenstein is fiercely denying the Times’s account, and reports from other outlets on Friday have offered conflicting pictures of the events, with many characterizing Rosenstein’s comment about a wire on the president as sarcastic.
“The New York Times’s story is inaccurate and factually incorrect,” Rosenstein said in a statement issued by the Justice Department. “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,” he added.
According to the Times, which cited unnamed sources, Rosenstein made the remarks last year to McCabe, who then detailed the Justice Department official’s comments in memos.
In the discussions, Rosenstein reportedly floated the possibility of recruiting Cabinet members, such as Attorney General Jeff Sessions and then-Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, now the White House chief of staff, behind an effort to invoke the 25th Amendment.
The amendment allows Cabinet members to trigger the removal of the president by majority vote if they deem the president unfit for office.
There is no evidence that Rosenstein acted on the alleged assertions.
A Justice Department spokeswoman provided a comment to the Times from a person who was said to be present when Rosenstein reportedly suggested wearing a wire. That person, who was not named, said Rosenstein’s remark was made sarcastically.
The Washington Post confirmed later Friday that McCabe’s memos state that Rosenstein suggested surreptitiously recording the president.
However, the Post also cited an unnamed official present for the meeting who claimed the comment was made in jest and that it came in response to McCabe’s own suggestion that the Justice Department open a probe into Trump following Comey’s firing.
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