Rod Rosenstein Suggested Secretly Recording Trump and Discussed 25th Amendment
By Adam Goldman and Michael S. Schmidt
Sept. 21, 2018
WASHINGTON — The deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, suggested last year that he secretly record President Trump in the White House 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. 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.
Mr. Rosenstein was just two weeks into his job. He had begun overseeing the Russia investigation and played a key role in the president’s dismissal of Mr. Comey by writing a memo critical of his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. But Mr. Rosenstein was caught off guard when Mr. Trump cited the memo in the firing, and he began telling people that he feared he had been used.
Mr. Rosenstein made the remarks about secretly recording Mr. Trump and about the 25th Amendment in meetings and conversations with other Justice Department and F.B.I. officials. Several people described the episodes, insisting on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. The people were briefed either on the events themselves or on memos written by F.B.I. officials, including Andrew G. McCabe, then the acting bureau director, that documented Mr. Rosenstein’s actions and comments.
None of Mr. Rosenstein’s proposals apparently came to fruition. It is not clear how determined he was about seeing them through, though he did tell Mr. McCabe that he might be able to persuade Attorney General Jeff Sessions and John F. Kelly, then the secretary of homeland security and now the White House chief of staff, to mount an effort to invoke the 25th Amendment.
The extreme suggestions show Mr. Rosenstein’s state of mind in the disorienting days that followed Mr. Comey’s dismissal. Sitting in on Mr. Trump’s interviews with prospective F.B.I. directors and facing attacks for his own role in Mr. Comey’s firing, Mr. Rosenstein had an up-close view of the tumult. Mr. Rosenstein appeared conflicted, regretful and emotional, according to people who spoke with him at the time.
Some of the details in Mr. McCabe’s memos suggested that Mr. Rosenstein had regrets about the firing of Mr. Comey. During a May 12 meeting with Mr. McCabe, Mr. Rosenstein was upset and emotional, Mr. McCabe wrote, and said that he wished Mr. Comey were still at the F.B.I. so he could bounce ideas off him.
Mr. Rosenstein also asked F.B.I. officials on May 14, five days after Mr. Comey’s firing, about calling him for advice about a special counsel. The officials responded that such a call was a bad idea because Mr. Comey was no longer in the government. And they were surprised, believing that the idea contradicted Mr. Rosenstein’s stated reason for backing Mr. Comey’s dismissal — that he had shown bad judgment in the Clinton email inquiry.