Trump could find an ally in Noel Francisco, Rosenstein's replacement

Arturo Kim
September 25, 2018

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein discussed secretly recording President Donald Trump a year ago as law enforcement agencies grew increasingly unnerved about chaos in the White House, according to people familiar with the exchange.

The revelations, first reported in The New York Times, suggested Rosenstein was concerned in spring 2017 over a memo he wrote about then-FBI director James Comey, which was critical of his handling of Hillary Clinton's email investigation, that Trump used to rationalize firing Comey. He also suggested that McCabe and other officials who were interviewing to become the next Federal Bureau of Investigation director could also perhaps record Trump, the newspaper reported.

The 25th Amendment allows for a sitting president to be removed from office if the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet decides he is unable to discharge his duties.

Among the participants was Andrew McCabe, the FBI official who was temporarily elevated to director after Comey's firing and who documented conversations with senior officials, including Rosenstein, in memos that have been provided to Mueller as part of his investigation.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday said documents from the federal Russian Federation probe would not immediately be released, just days after he ordered them to be made public, citing concerns by the U.S. Justice Department that doing so could harm the investigation.

"The New York Times' story is inaccurate and factually incorrect", Rosenstein said.

Trump told a campaign rally in Missouri on Friday that the department has some "great people" but also "some real bad ones".

The president on Friday night said there was a "lingering stench" at the Justice Department that "we're going to get rid of", though he didn't name names. The president has said he believes the documents will bolster his argument that investigators in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russian Federation probe are biased against him.

Mr McCabe's lawyer, Michael Bromwich, said his client "has no knowledge of how any member of the media obtained those memos".

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Trump had called for the documents' declassification on Monday in his latest effort to cast doubt on the probe, which has loomed over his presidency.

News organizations reported differing accounts Monday morning, including that Rosenstein resigned, that he was sacked, and that he was leaving the administration.

A Justice Department official who met frequently with both McCabe and Rosenstein said that in the months that followed, Rosenstein never broached either subject - the 25th Amendment or a possible wiretap involving the president. One person who was present at the time said Rosenstein was just being sarcastic.

Rosenstein issued a second statement not long after the president spoke. Some Republican members of Congress and hosts on Fox News pointed to the article as a rationale to further look into the claims or fire Rosenstein.

"The President, the White House Counsel, and the President's personal lawyers nevertheless seek access to this material for the corrupt goal of discrediting the Special Counsel", Schiff said.

The source familiar with the matter, who quoted Rosenstein responding to McCabe, also points out that Lisa Page took more detailed notes in the meeting and apparently does not mention that the 25th Amendment came up.

It has been widely debated whether Trump has the authority to fire Mueller, whose investigation would be overseen by Francisco should he assume Rosenstein's post.

Democrats quickly denounced any potential calls for Rosenstein's firing.

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