By Jon Dougherty
At least two of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet members were prepared to support a declaration that he was mentally unfit to serve and have him removed from office under provisions of the 25th Amendment, the former top lawyer for the FBI claims.
James Baker, in behind-closed-doors testimony to Congress last year, provided details of alleged discussions between senior officials at the Justice Department regarding the invocation of the 25th Amendment, claiming that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told him two Trump Cabinet officials were “ready to support” the effort, Fox News reported Sunday.
Baker provided these details to the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees last fall, and Fox News said that its correspondents have confirmed parts of the transcript.
The confirmation provides further insight into previous talks that have come up once again as fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe addresses them anew as he makes the media rounds to promote a new book.
In October, we reported that Baker had offered “explosive” testimony to Congress regarding what he characterized as the “abnormal fashion” reflecting “political bias” in the way bureau handled the probe into alleged “collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russia.
“Some of the things that were shared were explosive in nature,” Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., told Fox News at the time. “This witness confirmed that things were done in an abnormal fashion. That’s extremely troubling.”
The network added:
Baker is at the heart of surveillance abuse allegations, and his deposition lays the groundwork for next week’s planned closed-door interview with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Baker, as the FBI’s top lawyer, helped secure the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant on Page, as well as three subsequent renewals.
Prior to the deposition, Republican investigators said they believed Baker could explain why information about the British ex-spy behind a salacious Trump-related dossier, Christopher Steele, and Steele’s apparent bias against then-candidate Trump, were withheld from the FISA court, and whether other exculpatory information was known to Rosenstein when he signed the final FISA renewal for Page in June 2017.
As we noted Saturday, McCabe’s version of events is being disputed by Rosenstein and the Justice Department, but they match up well with revelations contained in a New York Times report last fall which claimed that Rosenstein offered to ‘wear a wire’ during interactions with POTUS Trump in order to catch something on tape that could then be used to convince enough Cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove him.
McCabe, according to reports regarding an upcoming “60 Minutes” interview to be aired tonight, has said he was personally involved in the discussions with Rosenstein about the wire, and that the deputy AG even offered on more than one occasion to wear one after POTUS Trump fired FBI Director James Comey — on Rosenstein’s recommendation — for essentially allowing Hillary Clinton to get away with criminal mishandling of classified emails.
In a bombshell story, The New York Times reported in September:
The deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, suggested last year that he secretly record President Trump in the White House to expose the chaos consuming the administration, and he discussed recruiting cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Mr. Trump from office for being unfit.
Mr. Rosenstein made these suggestions in the spring of 2017 when Mr. Trump’s firing of James B. Comey as F.B.I. director plunged the White House into turmoil. Over the ensuing days, the president divulged classified intelligence to Russians in the Oval Office, and revelations emerged that Mr. Trump had asked Mr. Comey to pledge loyalty and end an investigation into a senior aide.
Mr. Rosenstein made the remarks about secretly recording Mr. Trump and about the 25th Amendment in meetings and conversations with other Justice Department and F.B.I. officials. Several people described the episodes in interviews over the past several months, insisting on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. The people were briefed either on the events themselves or on memos written by F.B.I. officials, including Andrew G. McCabe, then the acting bureau director, that documented Mr. Rosenstein’s actions and comments.
Fox News also reported in October:
Former FBI General Counsel James A. Baker told congressional investigators during a closed-door deposition last week that then-FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe and FBI lawyer Lisa Page came to Baker “contemporaneously” after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May 2017. Baker said Page and McCabe relayed details of the meeting where Rosenstein made the comments.
Though he wasn’t personally in that meeting, Baker told congressional investigators he took McCabe and Page’s account “seriously,” the sources said. Further, Baker told congressional investigators he suspected “Rosenstein was coordinating with two people in the administration to invoke the 25th Amendment,” a source said.
Now, the network’s latest report appears to confirm that McCabe and Rosenstein had at least some success in convincing a couple of Trump Cabinet members he wasn’t fit to serve.
In his testimony, Baker didn’t confirm which two Cabinet officials had ‘turned,’ so to speak.
“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,” Baker told the committees.
While this obvious coup attempted never materialized, the NY Times reported that Rosenstein told McCabe he thought it would be possible to flip then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions and then-Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, who had been promoted to chief of staff, to invoke the 25th Amendment (It’s noteworthy that both of these officials are now no longer part of the administration).
Under the amendment, a president can be removed from office if a majority of his Cabinet says he’s incapable of discharging his duties.
On Thursday, the Justice Department claimed in a statement that Rosenstein dismisses McCabe’s recitation of these events “as inaccurate and factually incorrect.” The DoJ also denied that Rosenstein ever agreed to wearing a “wire” to record the president.
“The deputy attorney general never authorized any recording that Mr. McCabe references,” the statement said. “As the deputy attorney general previously has stated, based on his personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment, nor was the DAG in a position to consider invoking the 25th Amendment.”
Somebody’s lying. But given details that have been reported and now verified and what we know about the Obama administration’s “Spygate” operation, it seems clear that some plot was afoot to remove his duly elected successor from office.
Newly-minted Attorney General William Barr will have his hands full sorting this mess out.
- Follow Jon Dougherty on Twitter at @JonDougherty10
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