McCabe Says Justice Officials Discussed Recruiting Cabinet Members to Push Trump Out of Office

McCabe Says Justice Officials Discussed Recruiting Cabinet Members to Push Trump Out of Office

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The former F.B.I. deputy director, Andrew G. McCabe, during a Senate intelligence committee hearing 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 were 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 concerns about the president’s actions also prompted Mr. McCabe to order the bureau’s team investigating Russia’s election interference to expand their scope to also investigate whether Mr. Trump had obstructed justice by firing Mr. Comey. They also were to examine if he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests.

Mr. McCabe’s remarks were made in an interview on “60 Minutes” scheduled to air 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, citing lack of candor.

“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,” Mr. McCabe said.

Mr. Trump appeared to react to the interview, attacking Mr. McCabe and his wife, both frequent targets of Mr. Trump, via Twitter.

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 discussed recruiting cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Mr. Trump from office.

“There were meetings at the Justice Department at 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 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 New York Times, the former F.B.I. agent wrote that “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 he looked into the issue and determined he would need a “majority or 8 of the 15 cabinet officials.” Mr. McCabe added that Mr. Rosenstein suggested that he might have supporters in the attorney general and secretary of Homeland Security.

Mr. Rosenstein had disputed the account about the wire and the 25th Amendment.

A former Justice Department official who was present at the time when Mr. Rosenstein proposed wearing a wire said the deputy attorney general had made the remark sarcastically. The Justice 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 in the wake of 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.”

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