US President Donald Trump said Monday a top Justice official's reported discussions about invoking the Constitution to remove him from office were part of an "illegal and treasonous" push against him. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein raised the possibility of removing the president in 2017 after Trump fired FBI director James Comey, according to Andrew McCabe, who replaced Comey as the bureau's acting director.
McCabe and Rosenstein "look like they were planning a very illegal act, and got caught.....," Trump said in a series of tweets. "This was the illegal and treasonous 'insurance policy' in full action!" Trump has often attacked the federal investigations into his campaign's links to Russia as a "witch hunt" aimed at sabotaging his presidency.
The "insurance policy" he cited refers to an ambiguous text message a top FBI investigator sent to his lover in August 2016 that alludes to their concerns about then candidate Trump, which the president often points to as evidence of a "deep state" conspiracy against him. "I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy's office - that there's no way he gets elected - but I'm afraid we can't take that risk," the investigator, Peter Strzok, wrote. "It's like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you're 40."
Trump abruptly fired Comey May 9, 2017, as pressure rose over the Russia investigation, setting off alarm bells in the FBI and Justice Department. According to McCabe, in a lengthy interview that aired Sunday on CBS's "60 Minutes," Rosenstein brought up the possibility of invoking the 25th Amendment of the US Constitution, which provides for the removal of a sitting president for incapacity.
"Rod raised the issue and discussed it with me in the context of thinking about how many other cabinet officials might support such an effort," said McCabe, who has a book coming out, "The Threat." Rosenstein even pondered wearing a wire to secretly record his conversations with the president, he said. The deputy attorney general, who remains in office but no longer supervises the Russia investigation, appears never to have acted on those ideas.
"But what I can say is the deputy attorney general was definitely very concerned about the president, about his capacity and about his intent at that point in time," McCabe said. McCabe himself was fired in March 2018 for "lack of candour" in an internal investigation into the FBI's handling of a 2016 probe into Trump's Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
In the interview, McCabe also touched on Trump's inclination to believe Russian President Vladimir Putin over what his own intelligence services are telling him. He recounts a meeting he did not attend but was witnessed by another FBI agent, in which Trump reportedly said he did not believe North Korea had missiles capable of reaching the United States because Putin had told him that.
"Intelligence officials in the briefing responded that that was not consistent with any of the intelligence our government possesses," McCabe said. "To which the president replied, 'I don't care. I believe Putin.'"
(With inputs from agencies.)