Justice Department officials discussed whether Vice President Mike Pence and enough Trump Cabinet officials would deem it necessary to remove President Donald Trump from office using the 25th Amendment, former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe said in an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” that will air Sunday.
McCabe, who took over after Trump abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey in May 2017, said the conversations occurred in the days between Comey’s firing and special counsel Robert Mueller’s appointment later that month, according to CBS correspondent Scott Pelley.
McCabe is the first official to confirm prior anonymous reports that such discussions took place.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment about McCabe’s interview, which was taped ahead of the release of his book.
In a statement responding to the interview, the Justice Department said deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein “rejects Mr. McCabe’s recitation of events as inaccurate and factually incorrect.”
Rosenstein denied New York Times reporting in September that indicated officials had talked about using the 25th Amendment to remove the president from the White House. Reports of such discussions also came up in an op-ed from an anonymous Trump administration official published in the Times earlier that month.
Rosenstein also denied that he raised the possibility of wearing a wire when meeting with Trump. A source told HuffPost at the time that Rosenstein made the suggestion in a “sarcastic” manner.
But according to Pelley, McCabe said the suggestion was raised multiple times and that he discussed the possibility with FBI lawyers.
In an excerpt from the interview, McCabe also revealed he had opened two investigations into Trump in the days after Comey’s firing.
One sought to determine whether Trump obstructed justice when firing Comey, and the other was a counterintelligence investigation to determine whether Trump won the 2016 election “with the aid of the government of Russia, our most formidable adversary on the world stage,” McCabe said.
They eventually were merged into what is now Mueller’s investigation.
McCabe said he made the decision in the chaotic days following Comey’s sudden dismissal.
He sought to secure the FBI’s work so that “were I removed quickly, or reassigned, or fired, that the case could not be closed or vanish in the night without a trace.”
“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 walked away from it, they would not be able to do that without creating a record of why they made that decision,” McCabe said.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called it “a baseless investigation” in a statement to CBS News.
Trump lashed out at McCabe on Twitter later Thursday, calling him “a puppet for Leakin’ James Comey.” The president also rehashed right-wing lines of attack against McCabe: that he was fired for leaking information, and that he opposed Trump because his wife received money from a political action committee tied to then-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, an ally of Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton, during a 2015 Virginia state Senate campaign.
McCabe had no involvement in the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server during his wife’s campaign, according to FBI documents released last year.
According to an excerpt of McCabe’s forthcoming book published Thursday in The Atlantic, Trump repeatedly took pride in Comey’s firing and “flew off the handle,” ranting to McCabe about a litany of grievances against Comey.
McCabe also compared Trump to a mob boss, writing that “the president and his men were trying to work me the way a criminal brigade would operate.”
Like Comey, McCabe recalled keeping memos of his interactions with Trump so he could “have a contemporaneous record of conversations with a person who cannot be trusted.”
“Every day brings a new low, with the president exposing himself as a deliberate liar who will say whatever he pleases to get whatever he wants,” McCabe wrote. “If he were ‘on the box’ at Quantico, he would break the machine.”
UPDATE: Feb. 15, 3 p.m. ― McCabe’s spokesman Melissa Schwartz released a statement clarifying his remarks, saying they’ve been “taken out of context and misrepresented.”
“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. He was present and participated in a discussion that included a comment by Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein regarding the 25th Amendment. This anecdote was not included in The Threat, Mr. McCabe has merely confirmed a discussion that was initially reported elsewhere.”
This article has been updated to include Trump’s response and a statement from McCabe’s spokesman.