Soon after Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein suggested using a wiretap to record President Donald Trump’s communications, then-acting FBI director Andrew McCabe went to the bureau’s top lawyer seeking advice on what he had just heard, The Washington Post reports.
Rosenstein, McCabe told the lawyer, wanted to furtively record the President to help explore whether Trump had obstructed justice. How, McCabe asked, should the FBI respond to the outlandish proposition?
The lawyer, James Baker, dismissed the idea, according to people familiar with the episode who described it to The Washington Post on the condition of anonymity. But importantly, Baker told congressional investigators last week that the deputy attorney general’s suggestion was presented to him by senior FBI officials as being serious — raising questions about Rosenstein’s assertions to the contrary, the people said.
This week, Rosenstein is scheduled to talk to congressional investigators about the 2017 episode, which nearly cost him his job after it was revealed in news accounts last month. The high-stakes interview with some of the President’s closest Republican allies could again put the deputy attorney general in the hot seat, especially if those lawmakers leave the interview unconvinced of Rosenstein’s testimony and relay their concerns to the President, the Post adds.
His testimony also could give Trump supporters more ammunition to criticize the special counsel probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, an investigation Rosenstein supervises. Negotiations were ongoing Tuesday night about the time and parameters of his Thursday interview. Representatives for Baker and the Justice Department declined to comment.
“Really, we want to give the deputy attorney general the chance to clarify what was said and what was not said,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a Trump ally who has in the past been critical of Rosenstein.
According to Democratic aides familiar with Baker’s testimony last week, Baker could not recall which senior FBI official, McCabe or lawyer Lisa Page, who was at the Rosenstein meeting, recounted the substance of what was said to him. One of the aides said that while Baker characterized Rosenstein’s concern as “very serious,” it did not appear that Baker thought Rosenstein’s proposal was “an official one.”
According to a second Democratic aide, Baker said the proposal to wear a wire was dismissed by senior FBI and Justice Department officials “within a couple of days.”
Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer, said in an interview with The Post that Rosenstein told Trump that his comment about wiretapping was sarcastic, and that the President never believed that the deputy attorney general had pondered using a constitutional amendment to remove him from office.
Giuliani said the President sees the deputy attorney general more than he does Sessions – Rosenstein, for example, attended the installation of new Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, while Sessions did not – and sees no reason to make immediate personnel moves at the Justice Department.
“The press wants to know: What did you talk about? We had a good talk,” Trump said at the outset of a speech to the International Association of Chiefs of Police annual convention in Orlando as he thanked Rosenstein for being there, the Post also notes.
As he left the White House on Monday en route to Florida, Trump told reporters that he has a “very good relationship” with Rosenstein, who oversees the investigation of Russian election interference led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.