Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein wasn't joking when he told former FBI officials Andrew McCabe and Lisa Page that he wanted to secretly record President Trump and use the tapes to remove him from office, according to the FBI's former top lawyer.
Fox News reports that James Baker, who served as the FBI's General Counsel before he was reassigned and then quit, told congressional investigators during a closed-door deposition last week that Page and McCabe relayed the same account of Rosenstein's remarks - and that he was absolutely serious at the time.
"As far as Baker was concerned, this was a real plan being discussed," reports The Hill's John Solomon, citing a confidential source.
"It was no laughing matter for the FBI," the source added.
Solomon points out that Rosenstein's comments happened right around the time former FBI Director James Comey was fired.
McCabe, Baker's boss, was fired after the DOJ discovered that he had leaked self-serving information to the press and then lied to investigators about it. Baker, meanwhile, was central to the surveillance apparatus within the FBI during the counterintelligence operation on then-candidate Trump.
As the former FBI general counsel, Baker was a senior figure with a pivotal position who had the ear of the FBI director.
Baker also is at the heart of surveillance abuse accusations, many from congressional Republicans. His deposition lays the groundwork for a planned closed-door House GOP interview with Rosenstein later this week.
Baker, formerly the FBI's top lawyer, helped secure the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, as well as three subsequent renewals. -Fox News
Meanwhile, the Times also notes that McCabe's own memos attest to Rosenstein's intentions to record Trump - which led to Rosenstein reportedly tendering a verbal resignation to White House chief of staff John Kelly.
Rosenstein is set to be interviewed in private on Thursday by the House Judiciary Committee.
On September 21 the New York Times reported on Rosenstein's alleged comments. The MSM - citing anonymous officials - immediately spread the narrative that he was simply joking. Rosenstein's office has tried to downplay the comments as a joke, insisting that he never gave an order to record Trump, and that he doesn't believe Trump should be removed from office.
Let's see if Rosenstein tells Congressional investigators the same thing on Thursday, under oath, under penalty of felony.
Baker’s account to lawmakers this month clearly complicates an already complicated picture for Rosenstein before Congress, assuming he shows up for Thursday’s interview.
But even more so, Baker’s story lays bare an extraordinary conversation in which at least some senior FBI officials thought it within their purview to try to capture the president on tape and then go to the president’s own Cabinet secretaries, hoping to persuade the senior leaders of the administration to remove the president from power.
Even more extraordinary is the timing of such discussions: They occurred, according to Baker’s account, in the window around FBI Director James Comey’s firing. Could it be that the leaders of a wounded, stunned FBI were seeking retribution for their boss’ firing with a secret recording operation? -The Hill
Solomon points out that "This wasn’t a president who was incapacitated at the time. He was fully exercising his powers — but in a way the FBI leadership did not like."
Keep in mind, this is the same FBI that, a few months earlier during the 2016 election, had its top counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok talking to Page — his lover and the top lawyer to McCabe — about using their official powers to “stop” Trump in the election and having an “insurance policy” against the GOP nominee. That insurance policy increasingly looks like an unverified dossier created by British intelligence operative Christopher Steele — a Trump hater himself — that was bought and paid for by the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign through their mutual law firm. -The Hill
Let's also recall that this is the same FBI which employed Stephan Halper - a Cambridge professor and longtime US spook - to infiltrate and perform espionage on the Trump campaign.
"You walk away from the Baker interview with little doubt that the FBI leadership in that 2016-17 time-frame saw itself as far more than a neutral investigative agency but actually as a force to stop Trump’s election before it happened and then maybe reversing it after the election was over," said Solomon's source "directly familiar with the congressional investigation."
Baker's other admissions
Solomon also reports that Baker told congressional investigators that a DNC attorney gave him information in the Russia investigation, and that he received a version of the infamous Steele Dossier from liberal journalist David Corn of Mother Jones magazine - which he then forwarded to Strzok's team. Corn says this happened in November 2016, just after the election.
That transaction is significant for two reasons. First, at the time Steele had just been fired from the FBI probe for leaking to the media and he wasn’t supposed to be further assisting the probe. So Corn essentially acted as a back door to allow information to continue to flow.
Rosenstein and Trump met for approximately 30 minutes aboard Air Force One. Prior to the flight, Trump told reporters that he has no plans to fire Rosenstein.
"I actually have a good relationship — other than there’s been no collusion folks, no collusion," Trump said.
JUST IN: President Trump tells reporters he has no plans to fire Deputy AG Rosenstein, says they will be talking on Air Force One as they travel to Florida. pic.twitter.com/2JOusTob30— MSNBC (@MSNBC) October 8, 2018