Donald Trump has long had it out for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (to say nothing of his boss Jeff Sessions), and a new report from The New York Times is hardly likely to alleviate the president’s considerable acrimony toward the Justice Department’s number two—even as speculation swirled about the motives behind the report.
According to the Times, in early 2017 Rosenstein was so dismayed by what the Times characterized as “chaos consuming the administration” that he discussed wearing a wire to secretly record the president, and also considered recruiting members of Trump’s cabinet to begin invoking the 25th Amendment, which would launch a process to remove him from power.
Rosenstein reportedly made his comments to officials of the DOJ and FBI, after he’d voiced fears that he’d been “used” by the president to help justify the the firing of former FBI director James Comey.
While it’s unclear whether Rosenstein’s plan to secretly record Trump was ever enacted (he also reportedly suggested that if he weren’t the one to wear the wire, perhaps other applicants interviewing for the FBI directorship with Trump might), the Times claims he told then-acting FBI director Andrew McCabe that he thought he could convince Sessions and then-Homeland Security chief John Kelly to join him in invoking the 25th Amendment.
Rosenstein disputed the report in a statement to the Times, calling it “inaccurate and factually incorrect.”
He went on:
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 Times story prompted immediate shock, as well as suspicion that it was part of a calculated ploy to remove Rosenstein from the DOJ.
The White House has yet to publicly comment on the report.
Update, 3:10 p.m. ET: NBC News has a source who appears to partially back up the New York Times report, but claims Rosenstein’s comment about wearing a wire was made in jest.
Update, 3:27 p.m. ET: The Washington Post has also published its own account of the story, which it sources to memos written by Andrew McCabe. Notably, a source to the Post also described Rosenstein’s suggestion to record the president as having been made sarcastically.
From the Post:
The wire comment came in response to McCabe’s own pushing for the Justice Department to open an investigation into the president. To that, Rosenstein responded with what this person described as a sarcastic comment along the lines of, “What do you want to do, Andy, wire the president?”