Former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe, in a “60 Minutes” interview set to air Sunday night, said that Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein broached using the 25th Amendment to oust President Trump in a wide-ranging discussion that suggested he was concerned about Trump’s “capacity,” according to a transcript released Friday.
McCabe said 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,” according to the transcript.
“Rosenstein was actually openly talking about whether there was a majority of the cabinet who would vote to remove the president?” CBS News journalist Scott Pelley asked, according to the transcript.
“That’s correct. Counting votes or possible votes,” McCabe responded.
The 25th Amendment spells out a process for the president’s Cabinet to force his removal from office if he is unable to perform his duties.
CBS released the transcript after a spokeswoman for McCabe sought to downplay the idea that McCabe knew of a substantive effort to oust Trump using the 25th Amendment, saying in a statement that he never participated in “any extended discussions” about the matter, nor was he aware of such talks.
According to the transcript, McCabe told Pelley he did not remember how Rosenstein brought up the idea. “It was just another kinda topic that he jumped to in the midst of-- of-- of a wide-ranging conversation,” McCabe said.
Melissa Schwartz, McCabe’s spokeswoman, said in the statement that McCabe only “was present and participated in a discussion that included a comment by Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein regarding the 25th Amendment.”
“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,” Schwartz said.
Schwartz’s statement came after CBS on Thursday offered a preview of Pelley’s interview with McCabe. The preview did not show any of McCabe’s own words, but Pelley said the former acting FBI director told him using the 25th Amendment was discussed and that officials were “counting noses” — or speculating on who might support such an endeavor.
“I just want to put a finer point on that, because there has been reporting, but I don’t believe there has been a source that went on the record to confirm that the 25th Amendment was discussed about removing the president. So McCabe is saying that that was discussed?” CBS’s Norah O’Donnell asked Pelley.
“Absolutely,” Pelley responded. “McCabe, Norah, as you point out, is the very first person involved in these meetings who has come out and spoken publicly.”
“But there was a discussion, underway, about removing the president of the United States?” O’Donnell followed up.
“They were counting noses,” Pelley said. “They were 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.”
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.
The issue caused significant consternation at the White House and the Justice Department, and it nearly led to Rosenstein leaving his job. When CBS previewed its McCabe interview Thursday, old tensions were reignited. The Justice Department again disputed McCabe’s allegations, saying, “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 president and his defenders seized on the notion that there was a sinister plot afoot among law enforcement to oust the elected commander in chief.
“ ‘Trying to use the 25th Amendment to try and circumvent the Election is a despicable act of unconstitutional power grabbing . . . which happens in third world countries. You have to obey the law. This is an attack on our system & Constitution,’ ” the president wrote on Twitter on Thursday , apparently quoting lawyer Alan Dershowitz from an appearance on Fox News.
McCabe in the coming week is scheduled to sit for interviews to promote his upcoming book, “The Threat,” and it is likely that he will be asked more about his interactions with Rosenstein. Schwartz said in the statement that his book does not contain the anecdote about Rosenstein talking about the 25th Amendment and that McCabe “has merely confirmed a discussion that was initially reported elsewhere.”