US President Donald Trump has suggested that key officials involved in the Russia probe were engaged in “treasonous” behaviour.
Mr Trump hit out at former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, whose new book details his concerns about potential foreign influence over the president, and deputy attorney-general Rod Rosenstein, who initiated special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Mr Trump said McCabe and Rosenstein “look like they were planning a very illegal act, and got caught”.
In an interview with America’s 60 Minutes, Mr McCabe, who was fired last year by the FBI, described Mr Rosenstein as having raised the prospect of invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Mr Trump from office.
Mr Trump seethed on Twitter over the comments, calling Mr McCabe a liar before lashing out at top DOJ and FBI officials, including ousted Attorney-General Jeff Sessions, for what he described as a “deranged” plan.
“He and Rod Rosenstein, who was hired by Jeff Sessions (another beauty), look like they were planning a very illegal act, and got caught … There is a lot of explaining to do to the millions of people who had just elected a president who they really like and who has done a great job for them with the Military, Vets, Economy and so much more. This was the illegal and treasonous ‘insurance policy’ in full action!” he tweeted.
“Insurance policy” is a reference to texts between former FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page discussing such a policy, without elaborating — the text was widely suspected of referring to aspects of the Russia collusion probe.
While Mr Trump fumed at McCabe, the former FBI deputy director claimed he “never actually considered taking [Rosenstein] up on the offer.” He said he did discuss the matter with the FBI’s then-general counsel, James A. Baker.
Last year Mr Baker told politicians during a closed-door deposition that Mr McCabe and Ms Page came to Mr Baker “contemporaneously” and told him details of the meeting where Mr Rosenstein made the comments. Mr Baker told congressional investigators he took the word of Mr McCabe and Ms Page “seriously.”
Mr McCabe told CBS News that “I think the general counsel had a heart attack” when he told him of Mr Rosenstein’s plan.
“And when he got up off the floor, he said, ‘I, I, that’s a bridge too far. We’re not there yet,’” Mr McCabe added. Days later, Mr Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a special counsel to oversee the bureau’s investigation into allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.
Mr Rosenstein repeatedly has denied he “pursued or authorised recording the president” and also has denied Mr McCabe’s suggestion that the deputy Attorney-General had broached the idea of invoking the Constitution’s 25th Amendment, which allows Cabinet members to seek the removal of a president if they conclude that he or she is mentally unfit. The Justice Department echoed both denials in a statement released last week, saying Mr Rosenstein “was not in a position to consider invoking the 25th Amendment.”
Yet Mr McCabe said in the interview, “Rod raised the [25th Amendment] issue and discussed it with me in the context of thinking about how many other Cabinet officials might support such an effort.” He added that he believed Rosenstein was “counting votes or possible votes” to remove Mr Trump from office.
Fox News reported on Sunday that Mr Baker, in his testimony to Congress, provided even more details about the alleged 25th Amendment discussions — saying two Cabinet officials were “ready to support” such an effort.
“I was being told by some combination of Andy McCabe and Lisa Page, that, in a conversation with the Deputy Attorney-General, he had stated that he — this was what was related to me — that he had at least two members of the president’s Cabinet who were ready to support, I guess you would call it, an action under the 25th Amendment,” Mr Baker testified.
— With Fox News