In his first television interview since being fired last year, former top FBI official Andrew McCabe told 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley that he and other high-ranking Department of Justice officials seriously discussed invoking the 25th amendment to remove President Donald Trump from office in the days following the firing of former FBI director James Comey in May 2017.
“They were counting noses,” Pelley explained on CBS This Morning on Thursday. "Not asking cabinet members whether they would vote for or against removing the president. But they were speculating, this person would be with us. That person would not be, and they were counting noses in that effort.”
“This was not perceived to be a joke,” Pelley added.
Deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, who attended the meetings and was overseeing the FBI’s investigation into Russian meddling during the 2016 campaign, suggested he could wear a wire during a meeting with Trump. In an excerpt of a contemporaneous memo McCabe wrote after the meeting, obtained by the New York Times, Rosenstein determined the group would need a “majority or 8 of the 15 cabinet officials" to proceed. McCabe also wrote that Rosenstein suggested in the meeting that Jeff Sessions and John Kelly, then the attorney general and secretary of homeland security, respectively, might support the move, according to the Times.
Rosenstein, a Philadelphia native, has denied the characterization that his offer to wear a wire was serious, telling the president in October 2018 the suggestion was sarcastic, according to Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer.
In an excerpt of his 60 Minutes interview, McCabe also revealed he was responsible for ordering an obstruction-of-justice probe of the president over fears the FBI’s investigation into Russia would “vanish” after the president fired Comey.
"I wanted to make sure that our case was on solid ground and if somebody came in behind me and closed it and tried to walk away from it, they would not be able to do that without creating a record of why they made that decision,” McCabe said, adding he was concerned Trump might have won the election “with the aid of Russia.”
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told CBS in a statement that McCabe “opened a completely baseless investigation into the president.” On Twitter, Trump called McCabe a “disgrace” to both the FBI and the country.
Eight days after Comey was fired, Rosenstein appointed special counsel Robert Mueller to oversee the investigation into any links between the Trump campaign and Russia. That investigation is ongoing, but has already resulted in the indictment of 34 people — including six former Trump advisers, the latest being longtime advisor Roger Stone. McCabe, the FBI’s former deputy director, temporarily served as acting director after Comey’s firing.
McCabe was less than two days away from his retirement from the FBI when he was fired by Sessions in March 2018 over accusations of misleading Justice Department investigators. The Justice Department’s inspector general issued a report stating McCabe “lacked candor” during interviews about whether he was the source of information published by the Wall Street Journal ahead of the 2016 election. McCabe said his firing was part of the Trump administration’s effort to undermine the FBI.
“This attack on my credibility is one part of a larger effort not just to slander me personally, but to taint the FBI, law enforcement, and intelligence professionals more generally," McCabe said in statement