The top Republicans on the House and Senate Judiciary Committees are calling for former FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to testify before their respective panels, following McCabe’s explosive claims in an interview this week that senior Justice Department officials had considered removing President Trump using the 25th Amendment.
According to McCabe, Rosenstein offered to wear a wire to record the president, seemingly confirming reports last year. Rosenstein on Thursday again strongly denied that allegation, calling McCabe’s statements “factually incorrect.”
House Judiciary Committee ranking member Doug Collins, R-Ga., said in a letter to the committee’s chairman, Democratic New York Rep. Jerry Nadler, that the two top officials should be asked to testify — and subpoenaed if they refuse to comply.
“Today, news broke confirming Americans’ worst fears about the highest-ranking leaders in the Department of Justice and the FBI,” Collins wrote. “In fact, we now know certain government officials plotted to investigate and undermine” the president.
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Collins continued: “We request you immediately schedule a hearing to take the testimony of former Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.”
Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe sits with a folder marked “Secret” in front of him while testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, May 11, 2017, before the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on major threats facing the U.S. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) (The Associated Press)
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Collins also offered what he called a “non-partisan frame of reference,” urging his colleagues to “imagine if the situation were reversed and evidence showed DOJ and FBI contemplating the same actions against newly elected President Obama, including possible surveillance of President Obama and invoking the 25th Amendment against him.”
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., echoed Collins’ sentiments on Thursday.
“Yeah, I would like to know what happened,” Graham told The Hill. “You’re having a conversation about whether or not you’re going to invoke the 25th Amendment. I imagine if the shoe were on the other foot, my Democratic colleagues would want to know about that conversation if it involved a Democrat.”
The 25th Amendment governs the succession protocol if the president dies, resigns or becomes temporarily or permanently incapacitated. While the amendment has been invoked six times since its ratification in 1967, the specific section of the amendment purportedly discussed by top DOJ officials — which involves the majority of all Cabinet officers and the vice president agreeing that the president is “unable” to perform his job — has never been invoked.
Nevertheless, McCabe told CBS’ News’ Scott Pelley an interview that senior law enforcement officials discussed that option.
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On Thursday, Pelley said McCabe described meetings at the Justice Department after former FBI Director Jim Comey’s firing, to discuss “whether the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet could be brought together to remove the president under the 25th Amendment.”
McCabe was fired last year for committing three violations of the bureau’s ethics code, investigative sources told Fox News. The violations initially were uncovered by the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General and confirmed by the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility. They included lack of candor under oath, lack of candor when not under oath, and the improper disclosure of nonpublic information to the media about the FBI investigation into the Clinton Foundation.
McCabe has denied the allegations and called his firing politically motivated.
“I was speaking to the man who had just run for the presidency and won the election for the presidency and who might have done so with the aid of the government of Russia, our most formidable adversary on the world stage. And that was something that troubled me greatly,” McCabe said in one excerpt of his “60 Minutes” interview that aired Thursday, referring to a phone call he had with Trump on May 10, 2017.
McCabe, who also detailed that phone call in his book, took the call from the president while members of the bureau’s Russia team were in the room. The call, according to an excerpt from McCabe’s book published in The Atlantic Thursday, largely focused on Trump celebrating the firing of Comey and saying he was getting positive feedback for the decision.
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Pelley went on to ask, “How long was it after that that you decided to start the obstruction of justice and counterintelligence investigations involving the president?”
“I think the next day, I met with the team investigating the Russia cases,” McCabe confirmed. “And I asked the team to go back and conduct an assessment to determine where are we with these efforts and what steps do we need to take going forward.”
Rod Rosenstein was sworn in as deputy attorney general in April 2017. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
He added: “I was very concerned that I was able to put the Russia case on absolutely solid ground in an indelible fashion that were I removed quickly and reassigned or fired and 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 walk away from it, they would not be able to do that without creating a record of why they’d made that decision.”
Trump fired back on Twitter, blasting McCabe as a “disgrace” and calling him Comey’s “puppet.”
In reaction to the interview, a Justice Department spokesperson told Fox News that Rosenstein “again rejects Mr. McCabe’s recitation of events as inaccurate and factually incorrect.”
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“The deputy attorney general never authorized any recording that Mr. McCabe references. 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,” the spokesman said in a statement Thursday.
“Finally, the deputy attorney general never spoke to Mr. Comey about appointing a special counsel,” the statement continued. “The deputy attorney general in fact appointed Special Counsel [Robert] Mueller, and directed that Mr. McCabe be removed from any participation in that investigation. Subsequent to this removal, DOJ’s inspector general found that Mr. McCabe did not tell the truth to federal authorities on multiple occasions, leading to his termination from the FBI.”
Fox News’ Catherine Herridge and Brooke Singman contributed to this report.