Longstanding rumors that government officials planned to recruit members of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet to remove him from office got a credibility boost on Tuesday, thanks to newly released testimony from Republican Rep. Doug Collins.
The testimony, from interviews conducted with former top FBI lawyer James Baker by members of the House Judiciary and Government Reform and Oversight committees this past October, suggests Rosenstein was not only serious about trying to invoke the 25th Amendment—which would have forced Trump out of office—he’d actually managed to get multiple members of the president’s Cabinet to sign on.
Here’s the relevant exchange (emphasis mine) between Baker and GOP Rep. Jim Jordan regarding conversations between Baker and then-Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, nestled toward the end of the more than 150 pages of interview transcript:
Mr. Jordan. Was there anything talked about the 25th Amendment issue?
Mr. Baker. Yes.
Mr. Jordan. So both.
Mr. Baker. Yes.
Mr. Jordan. So both. And you took their conversation as completely serious that Mr. Rosenstein was serious about wearing a wire and recording the President for both of those reasons?
Mr. Baker. No, no. I didn’t connect the 25th Amendment thing to the wire. Maybe it was my mistake mentally. I connected that more to the obstruction matter. The 25th Amendment conversation, my understanding was that there was a conversation in which it was said I believe by the DAG that there were — that there were two members of the cabinet who were willing to go down this road already.
Baker’s testimony appears to back up a September 2018 report from the New York Times which said Rosenstein told McCabe he believed he could convince former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to support a 25th Amendment removal of Trump. However, Baker—a well-credentialed attorney who is presumably very careful about what he says under oath before a congressional panel—seemed to go even farther, suggesting that two Cabinet-level officials were already “willing” to join that plan.
For his part, Rosenstein has shrugged off the allegations, responding to the Times story last fall by saying it was the product of “anonymous sources who are obviously biased against the department and are advancing their own personal agenda.” He added that “based on my personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment.”