McCabe: Trump probe opened to preserve Russia investigations

Former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe says Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein raised high-level discussions at the Justice Department about recruiting Cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove President Donald Trump from office in the aftermath of former FBI Director James Comey’s firing.

The discussions also included speculation about which Cabinet members could be on board with the idea, McCabe said in an interview with CBS’s Scott Pelley. Rosenstein, through a Justice Department spokesperson, has repeatedly disputed McCabe’s characterization of his remarks, though he has not denied the topic was discussed at some point.

McCabe, who was fired from the FBI last March, also told CBS he ordered an investigation into whether Trump obstructed justice as a way to preserve ongoing inquiries into Russian election meddling in case there was an effort to terminate them.

The comments resurface the extraordinary tension between Trump and the nation’s top law enforcement officials, though a number of the ones who worked with McCabe in the early days of the administration have since been dismissed or resigned.

Rosenstein “raised the issue (of the 25th Amendment) and discussed it with me in the context of thinking about how many other Cabinet officials might support such an effort,” McCabe said in a transcript released by CBS on Friday.

He added that Rosenstein was “counting votes or possible votes” of different Cabinet members who he thought would support removing the President. When Pelley asked if Rosenstein seemed focused on getting rid of Trump, McCabe said he couldn’t confirm that but Rosenstein “was definitely very concerned about the President, about his capacity and about his intent at that point in time.”

Rosenstein’s discussion of the 25th Amendment was “just another kinda topic that he jumped to in the midst … of a wide-ranging conversation,” McCabe added.

Earlier Friday, a spokeswoman for McCabe disputed characterizations of the incident.

“To clarify, at no time did Mr. McCabe participate in any extended discussions about the use of the 25th Amendment, nor is he aware of such discussions,” Melissa Schwartz said in a statement.

She said McCabe was “present and participated in a discussion that included a comment by Deputy Attorney General (Rod) Rosenstein regarding the 25th Amendment.”

In September, citing sources familiar with memos authored by McCabe, CNN reported that Rosenstein discussed wearing a “wire” to record conversations with Trump and recruiting Cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. Also in September, an anonymous “senior official in the Trump administration”