McCabe Says Justice Dept. Officials Had Discussions About Pushing Trump Out

McCabe Says Justice Dept. Officials Had Discussions About Pushing Trump Out

Andrew G. McCabe, the former deputy F.B.I. director, testifying on Capitol Hill in 2017.CreditCreditStephen Crowley/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Andrew G. McCabe, the former deputy F.B.I. director, said in an interview aired on Thursday that top Justice Department officials became so alarmed by President Trump’s decision in May 2017 to fire James B. Comey, the bureau’s director, that they discussed whether to recruit cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Mr. Trump from office.

The dire concerns about the president’s actions also prompted Mr. McCabe to order the bureau’s team investigating Russia’s election interference to look into whether Mr. Trump had obstructed justice by firing Mr. Comey. The F.B.I. also began examining whether Mr. Trump had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests.

Mr. McCabe’s explosive remarks were made in an interview with “60 Minutes” scheduled to air in full on Sunday. He was promoting his memoir, “The Threat: How the F.B.I. Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump,” which will be released next week.

Mr. McCabe said he spoke to Mr. Trump just after Mr. Comey was fired, and the next day he met with the team investigating Russia’s election interference.

“I was very concerned that I was able to put the Russia case on absolutely solid ground, in an indelible fashion,” Mr. McCabe said. “That were I removed quickly, or reassigned or fired, that the case could not be closed or vanish in the night without a trace.”

On the eve of his retirement in March 2018, Mr. McCabe was fired by Jeff Sessions, the attorney general at the time, after being accused of a lack of candor.

Since his firing, Mr. McCabe had kept a low profile while working on the book, but he is now making his story known to the public and is an irritant to the president.

Mr. Trump appeared to react to the interview, attacking Mr. McCabe on Twitter and calling him a “disgrace to the FBI and a disgrace to our Country.”

As a clip from the interview with Scott Pelley was released, Mr. Pelley said on “CBS This Morning” that Mr. McCabe had confirmed a New York Times report that the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, had suggested wearing a wire in meetings with Mr. Trump and that Justice Department officials had discussed recruiting cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Mr. Trump from office.

“There were meetings at the Justice Department in which it was discussed whether the vice president and a majority of the cabinet could be brought together to remove the president of the United States under the 25th Amendment,” Mr. Pelley said. “These were the eight days from Comey’s firing to the point that Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel. And the highest levels of American law enforcement were trying to figure out what to do with the president.”

Former law enforcement officials said the comments were made during a pair of meetings on May 16, 2017. Mr. McCabe and his former colleagues kept contemporaneous memos on their interactions with Mr. Trump and Justice Department officials.

According to one of those memos written by Mr. McCabe, an excerpt from which was provided to The Times, “We discussed the president’s capacity and the possibility he could be removed from office under the 25th Amendment,” and the deputy attorney general indicated that he looked into the issue and determined he would need a “majority or eight of the 15 cabinet officials.” Mr. McCabe added that Mr. Rosenstein suggested that he might have supporters in the attorney general and the secretary of homeland security.

Mr. Rosenstein had disputed the account about the wire and the 25th Amendment. Former officials said that the days after Mr. Comey was fired were chaotic and that Mr. Rosenstein found himself under enormous pressure.

A former Justice Department official who was present when Mr. Rosenstein proposed wearing a wire said the deputy attorney general had made the remark sarcastically. The department provided an anonymous comment from the official. But Mr. McCabe said the idea came up repeatedly and was taken seriously, Mr. Pelley said.

Mr. McCabe is the first person involved in these meetings who has spoken publicly about them.

Mr. Pelley said: “They were counting noses. 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, this person would not be,’ and they were counting noses in that effort.”

“This was not perceived to be a joke,” Mr. Pelley added.

In a statement released on Thursday morning after the interview with Mr. Pelley, a Justice Department spokeswoman said, “The deputy attorney general again rejects Mr. McCabe’s recitation of events as inaccurate and factually incorrect.”

The spokeswoman added that as Mr. Rosenstein “has stated, based on his personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment, nor was the deputy attorney general in a position to consider invoking the 25th Amendment.”

Mr. McCabe was fired because of statements he made to the Justice Department inspector general as part of an examination of F.B.I. actions in 2016. The inspector general found four instances in which he lacked candor while investigators interviewed him.

The case against Mr. McCabe was referred to federal prosecutors last year, but it is unclear if he will face any criminal charges, such as lying to investigators.

Mr. McCabe’s critics have used the inspector general’s findings to undermine his credibility and to paint him as a partisan who was part of an F.B.I. cabal that targeted the president.

Representative Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican who is one of the president’s staunchest allies, derided Mr. McCabe’s memoir on Twitter.

“The only thing you need to know about Andy McCabe’s book: the author was fired for lying to the FBI and conducting covert investigations in breech of protocol,” Mr. Meadows wrote. “McCabe has zero credibility.”

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said it was “imperative” that Mr. McCabe come before the Judiciary Committee, which Mr. Graham oversees, to “answer questions about what appears to be, now more than ever, bias against President Trump.”

Mr. Graham said he was willing to try to subpoena Mr. McCabe if necessary to compel him to appear, though it is unlikely he could get the necessary Democratic signoff.

Katie Benner and Nicholas Fandos contributed reporting.

Follow Adam Goldman on Twitter: @adamgoldmanNYT.


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