Two Trump Cabinet officials were "ready to support" a DOJ scheme to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove President Trump, according to Bloomberg and Fox News, citing closed-door testimony from the FBI's former top lawyer, James Baker - who said that the claim came from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
The testimony was delivered last fall to the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees. Fox News has confirmed portions of the transcript. It provides additional insight into discussions that have returned to the spotlight in Washington as fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe revisits the matter during interviews promoting his forthcoming book. -Fox News
While Baker did not identify the two Cabinet officials, he says that McCabe and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page approached him to relay their conversations with Rosenstein, including their discussions of the 25th Amendment scheme.
"I was being told by some combination of Andy McCabe and Lisa Page, that, in a conversation with the Deputy Attorney General, he had stated that he -- this was what was related to me -- that he had at least two members of the president’s Cabinet who were ready to support, I guess you would call it, an action under the 25th Amendment," Baker told the Congressional committees.
The 25th Amendment allows for the removal of a sitting president from office through various mechanisms - including the majority of a president's Cabinet agreeing that the commander-in-chief is incapable of performing his duties.
Rosenstein - who is slated to leave the Justice Department in the near future, has denied the claims.
Baker said McCabe was cool, calm and collected throughout the discussions, telling lawmakers: "At this point in time, Andy was unbelievably focused and unbelievably confident and squared away. I don’t know how to describe it other than I was extremely proud to be around him at that point in time because I thought he was doing an excellent job at maintaining focus and dealing with a very uncertain and difficult situation. So I think he was in a good state of mind at this point in time."
McCabe, meanwhile told "60 Minutes" in an interview set to air Sunday night that Rosenstein was concerned about Trump's "capacity."
According to McCabe, Rosenstein "raised the issue and discussed it with me in the context of thinking about how many other cabinet officials might support such an effort," adding that Rosenstein was "definitely very concerned about the president, about his capacity and about his intent at that point in time."
"Rosenstein was actually openly talking about whether there was a majority of the cabinet who would vote to remove the president?" asks CBS News anchor Scott Pelly, to which McCabe replied: "That’s correct. Counting votes or possible votes."
The New York Times first reported last year that McCabe alleged in memos that Rosenstein had talked about using the 25th Amendment to oust Trump — or wearing a wire to surreptitiously monitor the president — in the hectic days in May 2017 after Trump fired James B. Comey as FBI director. At the time, Rosenstein disputed the reporting. -WaPo
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) called the 25th Amendment scheme a "bureaucratic coup" led by enemies of President Trump. On Sunday morning, Graham said he would subpoena McCabe and Rosenstein "if that's what it takes" to get to the bottom of the 25th Amendment claim.
.@LindseyGrahamSC says he’ll subpoena Fmr. Acting FBI Dir. McCabe & DAG Rod Rosenstein if “that’s what it takes” to get them to testify regarding McCabe’s claim that Rosenstein brought up the 25th amendment. pic.twitter.com/r31XbVCPps— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) February 17, 2019
On Thursday, the DOJ issued a statement claiming that Rosenstein rejects McCabe's version of events "as inaccurate and factually incorrect," and also denied that Rosenstein ever approved wearing a "wire" to record Trump.
"The deputy attorney general never authorized any recording that Mr. McCabe references," reads the DOJ statement. "As the deputy attorney general previously has stated, based on his personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment, nor was the DAG in a position to consider invoking the 25th Amendment."
McCabe, meanwhile, walked back some of his "60 Minutes" statements. On Friday a spokeswoman for the former Deputy Director said: "Certain statements made by Mr. McCabe, in interviews associated with the release of his book, have been taken out of context and misrepresented," adding "To clarify, at no time did Mr. McCabe participate in any extended discussions about the use of the 25th Amendment, nor is he aware of any such discussions."
Baker acknowledged during his testimony that he was not directly involved in the May 2017 discussions, rather, McCabe and Page approached him contemporaneously following a meeting with Rosenstein in the days following former FBI Director James Comey's firing.
"I had the impression that the deputy attorney general had already discussed this with two members in the president’s Cabinet and that they were…onboard with this concept already," said Baker.
Question: “Do you know what direction that went? Was it Mr. Rosenstein seeking out members of the Cabinet looking to pursue this 25th Amendment approach or was it the other way around?”
Baker: “What I recall being said was that the Deputy Attorney General had two members of the Cabinet. So he – how they came to be had, I don’t know, but…”
Question: “So he had two members, almost like he was taking the initiative and getting the members?”
Baker: “That would be speculation on my part.” -Via Fox News
Baker also suggested that "Lisa and Andy" did not know the names of the Cabinet officials who were on board with the 25th Amendment scheme.
Baker testified in October that the alleged discussions took place during an uncertain and anxious time at the FBI and DOJ after Comey’s termination, and that the mood was “pretty dark":
Question: “Did people tell you that the DAG (Deputy Attorney General) was upset?”
Question: “Did they tell you that he was making jokes?”
Question: “Did they tell you that...”
Baker: “This was not a joking sort of time. This was pretty dark.” -Via Fox News
Pretty dark indeed.