Two senior FBI officials thought that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was ‘serious’ when he discussed secretly recording President Donald Trump and invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office last year, a senior attorney for the bureau revealed in secret congressional testimony.
Former FBI General Counsel James Baker claims that then-FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe and FBI lawyer Lisa Page told him of Rosenstein’s comments in a meeting after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May 2017, Fox News reported.
Baker offered the details to congressional investigators last week during a closed-door deposition.
Baker wasn’t in the meeting where Rosenstein made his remark, he told legislative staff but said he took McCabe and Page’s account ‘seriously.’
He also said he suspected ‘Rosenstein was coordinating with two people in the administration to invoke the 25th Amendment,’ a source told the news network.
The New York Times first reported Rosenstein’s comment about taping the president to invoke the 25the amendment.
The deputy attorney general, who has had a contentious relationship with the president, allegedly told McCabe that he might be able to persuade Attorney General Jeff Sessions and John Kelly, then the secretary of homeland security and now the White House chief of staff, to mount an effort to invoke the 25th Amendment.
Rosenstein was reported to have made the remarks about secretly recording Trump in conversations with other Justice Department and FBI officials and McCabe, then the acting bureau director, was one of the people that wrote a memo that documented Rosenstein’s comments.
He said he never recorded the president or advocated to have him removed from office
‘I never pursued or authorized recording the President and any suggestion that I have ever advocated for the removal of the President is absolutely false,’ Rosenstein told the paper.
Other people in the meeting were reported to have called Rosenstein’s remark ‘sarcastic.’
Rosenstein’s job at the Justice Department, which includes oversight of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election, seems secure – for now.
He cited conversations with then-FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe and FBI lawyer Lisa Page
Trump said Monday he has no intention of firing Rosenstein after the two had a ‘great’ conversation aboard Air Force One in route to Florida, where the president was speaking to a police chiefs conference.
‘I’m not making any changes,’ Trump said. ‘You’d be the first to know.’
Monday’s flight was their first face-to-face conversation in the wake of the New York Times report, although they had spoken on the phone.
Rosenstein had remained in a holding pattern since September and wasn’t expected to be fired after denying claims that he considered wiretapping the president in a quest to prove he’s mentally unstable. He also rejected a claim that he considered approaching the president’s Cabinet for help in having Trump removed.
Baker was interviewed by Congressional investigators ahead of a planned closed-door House GOP interview with Rosenstein later this week.
He helped secure the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page and investigators also wanted to speak to him about the Steele dossier, a document written by former British spy Christopher Steele making the unverified claim that the Russians had blackmail information on Trump, which the president has denied.
NOT A JOKE: Top FBI Lawyer James Baker’s Testimony CONFLICTS WITH DOJ’S 2ND IN COMMAND ROSENSTEIN’S DENIAL of His Suggestion to WEAR A WIRE and INVOKE THE 25TH AMENDMENT to Remove the President
Two senior FBI officials told the bureau’s top lawyer they believed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was “serious” when he discussed secretly recording President Trump and invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office last year, according to sources close to a congressional investigation – an account that conflicts with claims from Rosenstein and others that the comments either were inaccurately reported or made in jest.
Former FBI General Counsel James A. Baker told congressional investigators during a closed-door deposition last week that then-FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe and FBI lawyer Lisa Page came to Baker “contemporaneously” after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May 2017. Baker said Page and McCabe relayed details of the meeting where Rosenstein made the comments.
Though he wasn’t personally in that meeting, Baker told congressional investigators he took McCabe and Page’s account “seriously,” the sources said. Further, Baker told congressional investigators he suspected “Rosenstein was coordinating with two people in the administration to invoke the 25th Amendment,” a source said.
Baker, whose testimony was described as deliberate and sober, added he had not done a legal analysis and was unsure whether it was “unethical or illegal,” the source added.
The testimony would appear at odds with other accounts of those explosive discussions.
The New York Times first reported the details of the alleged discussions between Rosenstein and senior FBI officials in May 2017, one day before Rosenstein appointed Special Counsel Robert Mueller to oversee the Russia investigation. After the allegations surfaced, Fox News reported on Sept. 22, based on a source who was in the meeting, that Rosenstein’s “wire” comments were viewed as “sarcastic.” Rosenstein also released a statement saying, “I never pursued or authorized recording the President and any suggestion that I have ever advocated for the removal of the President is absolutely false.”
The report triggered new tensions between the White House and DOJ, where Rosenstein oversees the Mueller-led probe. Amid speculation that the deputy attorney general might be fired or quit, a meeting between Trump and Rosenstein was pushed off repeatedly — until Monday, when the two met for 45 minutes aboard Air Force One, en route to a police conference in Florida. Trump said the conversation was “great,” and he has no plans to fire Rosenstein.
Fox News has learned that the meeting in question included Rosenstein, McCabe and Page, among others, and took place at the Justice Department.
Asked about Baker’s account, a DOJ spokesperson said the department stood by its previous statements.
A spokesperson for McCabe declined to comment. McCabe’s memos documenting the Rosenstein meeting were turned over to Mueller. The House Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena for the records, but they were not provided by last Thursday’s deadline. A lawyer for Lisa Page did not respond.
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. Prior to the deposition, Republican investigators said they believed Baker could explain why information about the British ex-spy behind a salacious Trump-related dossier, Christopher Steele, and Steele’s apparent bias against then-candidate Trump, were withheld from the FISA court, and whether other exculpatory information was known to Rosenstein when he signed the final FISA renewal for Page in June 2017.
Fox News asked Baker after last week’s deposition about the handling of the Trump dossier, what he told Rosenstein about exculpatory evidence and whether he was the subject of an FBI leak investigation. Baker told Fox News he could not answer such questions.
A Justice Department official said Rosenstein agreed to meet with the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., but offered no details on the format of that meeting.
Former FBI lawyer: Plot to Record, Remove Trump NOT A JOKE
He apparently doesn’t believe it. And he held quite the vantage point — he was on the inside of the bureau’s leadership in May 2017, when the discussions occurred.
Baker told Congress last week that his boss — then-Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe — was dead serious about the idea of surreptitiously recording the 45th president and using the evidence to make the case that Trump should be removed from office, according to my sources.
Baker told lawmakers he wasn’t in the meeting that McCabe had with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in which the subject came up. But he did have firsthand conversations with McCabe and the FBI lawyer assigned to McCabe, Lisa Page, about the issue.
“As far as Baker was concerned, this was a real plan being discussed,” said a source directly familiar with the congressional investigation. “It was no laughing matter for the FBI.”
Word of Baker’s testimony surfaces just days before Rosenstein is set to be interviewed in private on Thursday by House Judiciary Committee lawmakers.
Since The New York Times first reported the allegations, Rosenstein, the No. 2 Department of Justice (DOJ) official, has tried to downplay his role in them. His office has suggested that he thought the discussions were a joke, that Rosenstein never gave an order to carry out such a plot, and that he does not believe Trump should be removed from office.
But making those statements through a spokesperson is a bit different than having Rosenstein himself face Congress and answer the questions under penalty of felony if lawmakers think he is lying.
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?
I doubt this is the power that Congress intended to be exercised when it created the FBI a century ago, or the circumstances in which the authors of the 25th Amendment imagined a president’s removal could be engineered.
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.
And that makes the FBI’s involvement in the tape-record-then-dump-Trump conversations overtly political — even if Rosenstein believed the whole idea was farcical.
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.
“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 a source directly familiar with the congressional investigation.
Baker provided some other valuable insights in his congressional interview. As I reported last week, he revealed that he accepted information in the Russia investigation from a lawyer for the Democratic National Committee.
And my sources also confirm Baker admitted he received a version of Steele’s dossier from left-leaning reporter David Corn of Mother Jones magazine, and then forwarded it to Strzok’s team. Corn says that occurred in November 2016, right 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.
Secondly, the FBI was using the news media as an investigative source outside the normal chain of evidence.
Whatever you think of Rosenstein or the Russia probe, the statements Baker made to Congress have implications for all Americans.
The FBI was created to investigate crimes and stop foreign intelligence and terrorism threats. It was never designed to be a broker in the political process of elections or the execution of the 25th Amendment.
John Solomon is an award-winning investigative journalist whose work over the years has exposed U.S. and FBI intelligence failures before the Sept. 11 attacks, federal scientists’ misuse of foster children and veterans in drug experiments, and numerous cases of political corruption. He is The Hill’s executive vice president for video.
Top FBI Lawyer Baker Offers ‘explosive’ Testimony on ‘abnormal’ Handling of Russia Probe Into Trump Campaign: Lawmakers
Former top FBI lawyer James Baker gave “explosive” closed-door testimony on Wednesday detailing for congressional investigators how the Russia probe was handled in an “abnormal fashion” reflecting “political bias,” according to two Republican lawmakers present for the deposition.
“Some of the things that were shared were explosive in nature,” Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., told Fox News. “This witness confirmed that things were done in an abnormal fashion. That’s extremely troubling.”
Meadows claimed the “abnormal” handling of the probe into alleged coordination between Russian officials and the Trump presidential campaign was “a reflection of inherent bias that seems to be evident in certain circles.” The FBI agent who opened the Russia case, Peter Strzok, FBI lawyer Lisa Page and others sent politically charged texts, and have since left the bureau.
Baker, who had a closely working relationship with former FBI Director James Comey, left the bureau earlier this year.
The lawmakers would not provide many specifics about the private transcribed interview, citing a confidentiality agreement with Baker and his attorneys. However, they indicated in broad terms that Baker was cooperative and forthcoming about the genesis of the Russia case in 2016, and about the surveillance warrant application for Trump campaign aide Carter Page in October 2016.
“During the time that the FBI was putting — that DOJ and FBI were putting together the FISA (surveillance warrant) during the time prior to the election — there was another source giving information directly to the FBI, which we found the source to be pretty explosive,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.
Meadows and Jordan would not elaborate on the source, or answer questions about whether the source was a reporter. They did stress that the source who provided information to the FBI’s Russia case was not previously known to congressional investigators.
Baker is at the heart of surveillance abuse allegations, and his deposition lays the groundwork for next week’s planned closed-door interview with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Baker, as the FBI’s top lawyer, helped secure the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant on Page, as well as three subsequent renewals.
Prior to the deposition, Republican investigators said they believed Baker could explain why information about the British ex-spy behind a salacious Trump-related dossier, Christopher Steele, and Steele’s apparent bias against then-candidate Trump, were withheld from the FISA court, and whether other exculpatory information was known to Rosenstein when he signed the final FISA renewal for Page in June 2017.
Fox News asked Baker after the deposition about the handling of the Trump dossier, what he told Rosenstein about exculpatory evidence, and whether he is the subject of an FBI leak investigation. Baker told Fox News he could not answer such questions.
Rosenstein is now expected on Capitol Hill on Oct. 11 for what Republican House sources have described as a closed-door interview, not a briefing to leadership. It comes after The New York Times reported last month that he’d discussed secretly recording the president and removing him from office using the 25th Amendment. Rosenstein’s planned in-person meeting with Trump has been pushed off amid speculation he might be fired or resign.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters Wednesday the meeting remains in limbo.
“If there’s a meeting, we’ll let you know,” she said. “But at this point, they continue to work together and both show up every day and do their jobs.”
A Justice Department official said Rosenstein agreed to meet with the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., but offered no details on the format of that meeting.
Trump Says He Will ‘get Rid’ of a ‘lingering Stench’ in the FBI, DOJ
Following news Friday that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein suggested in May of 2017 that officials in the FBI should wear a wire when speaking with President Trump, the president told a rally in Missouri that he hopes soon to get rid of a “lingering stench” in the Department of Justice and FBI.
“Look what’s being exposed at the Department of Justice and the FBI,” Trump told a packed house in Springfield, Mo. Friday night. “You have some real bad ones. You see what’s happening at the FBI — they’re all gone, they’re all gone. But there’s a lingering stench and we’re going to get rid of that too.”
The comments follow reporting confirmed by ABC News citing sources familiar with memos by former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe – which allege that Rosenstein told McCabe he could recruit members of the president’s cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove President Trump from office for being unfit. Rosenstein believed he would be able to convince Attorney General Jeff Sessionsand then-Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to sign on, according to the sources.
In a new statement Friday night, Rosenstein sought to push back against the reports.
“I never pursued or authorized recording the President and any suggestion that I have ever advocated for the removal of the President is absolutely false,” Rosenstein said.
The president made the remarks at an event on behalf of U.S. Senate candidate Josh Hawley, who is locked in a tight battle with Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill in a state Trump won in the 2016 presidential election by 19 points.
“Missouri was never too close to call,” Trump joked as he began recounting his signature reflection of election night.
After trashing McCaskill for her recent announcement that she won’t support the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Trump tied the result of the midterms directly to his presidency.
“Get out in 2018, because you’re voting for me!” Trump said.
Speaking of Kavanaugh, Trump didn’t directly make reference to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford who has accused Kavanaugh of attempting to sexually assault her while the two were in high school. Trump instead expressed confidence that Kavanaugh would be confirmed.
“You talk about central casting, he was born for the U.S. Supreme Court. And it’s gonna happen,” Trump said. “We have to fight for him, not worry about the other side, and by the way, women are for that more than anybody would understand.”
The president hit on a myriad of other topics in his campaign speech, including immigration, the economy, and the militant leftist group ‘Antifa.’
“You have guys that look like they live with mom and dad in the basement,” Trump said of Antifa. “I would never suggest this, but I will tell you, oy, they’re so lucky that we’re peaceful.”
Trump also trashed the “Democrat party,” saying he chooses the name over “Democratic Party” because “why should I make it sound so sweet?”
“They aren’t just extremist,” Trump said. “They are dangerous, and frankly, crazy.”