US Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosentein last year discussed the possibility of secretly reporting US president Donald Trump, and also talked about getting members of Trump's cabinet to invoke the Constitution to declare him unfit to remain as president, The New York Times reported Friday.
The Times reports that Rosenstein made these "suggestions" in Spring 2017 shortly after Donald Trump fired then FBI chief James Comey and Rosenstein himself was only two weeks into his job as deputy attorney general.
Rod Rosenstein, the No. 2 U.S. Justice Department official, has come under criticism from President Donald Trump ever since Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia probe now being run by Robert Mueller who is investigating the allegation of Russian collusion in the Donald Trump 2016 campaign.
Rosenstein denied the NYT story within moments after it broke shortly before 3 pm EST. "Inaccurate and incorrect", Rosenstein said soon after the bombshell report was posted online by the Times.
“The New York Times’s story is inaccurate and factually incorrect,” he said. “I will not further comment on a story based on anonymous sources who are obviously biased against the department and are advancing their own personal agenda. But let me be clear about this: Based on my personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment.”
There's almost no doubt the Times report will spark new controversy and a powerful pushback from Trump's White House. It's only a matter of time before this explodes into the US midterm headlines.
The Times cited several people, who were not named, who described the episodes that came in the spring of 2017 after FBI Director James Comey was fired. The newspaper's sources also included people who were briefed on memos written by FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
The 25th Amendment to the Constitution spells out that a president can be declared "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office" upon a majority vote of the vice president and the Cabinet.
A person who was in the room when Rosenstein made the 2017 comment, and provided a statement through the Justice Department, said Rosenstein was "sarcastic" and that he "never discussed any intention of recording a conversation with the president."
The newspaper reported that Rosenstein, frustrated with the hiring process for a new FBI director, offered to wear a "wire" and secretly record the president when he visited the White House.
Rosenstein chose Mueller for the job one week after he laid the groundwork for the firing of Comey by writing a memo that criticized Comey's handling of the FBI's investigation into Hillary Clinton's email server. The White House initially held up that memo as justification for Comey's firing, though Trump himself has said he was thinking about "this Russia thing" when he made the move.
As deputy attorney general, Rosenstein oversees Mueller's work and has made two public announcements of indictments brought by the special counsel — one against Russians accused of hacking into Democratic email accounts, the other against Russians accused of running a social media troll farm to sway public opinion.
On Friday, Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump, Jr., tweeted the Times' story and said: "Shocked!!! Absolutely Shocked!!! Ohhh, who are we kidding at this point? No one is shocked that these guys would do anything in their power to undermine @realdonaldtrump."
(With Associated Press)
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Updated Date: Sep 22, 2018 15:17:26 IST