Did the “highest levels” of the Department of Justice attempt to foment a coup d’etat in May 2017? Former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe told Scott Pelley that he quarterbacked a meeting to discuss removing Donald Trump from office after the president fired James Comey. In the interview, which will air on 60 Minutes this Sunday, McCabe says that the participants in the meeting included Rod Rosenstein and other less-senior officers in the Department of Justice and got to the point of “counting noses” to see whether invoking the 25th Amendment would succeed:
.@ScottPelley on what McCabe told @60Minutes: "There were meetings at the Justice Department at which it was discussed whether the vice president and a majority of the cabinet could be brought together to remove the president of the United States under the 25th Amendment." pic.twitter.com/iVAyrEV4MF
— Norah O'Donnell 🇺🇸 (@NorahODonnell) February 14, 2019
“The most illuminating and surprising thing in the interview to me were these eight days in May when all of these things were happening behind the scenes that the American people really didn’t know about,” Pelley said on the show.
“There were meetings at the Justice Department at which it was discussed whether the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet could be brought together to remove the president of the United States under the 25th Amendment,” Pelley said. “These were the eight days from Comey’s firing to the point that Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel. And the highest levels of American law enforcement were trying to figure out what do with the president.”
That’s some kind of admission — and McCabe may not realize how that looks. In his book, he probably casts this as some kind of attempt to deal with a rogue president, likely with himself as a hero. However, I’m checking my copy of the Constitution and can’t quite find where it says that the Department of Justice and the FBI has any role in the 25th Amendment process for removing an incapacitated president. Here’s the text of the relevant portion of the amendment:
4. Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.
Talk about getting out over your own skis. “Principal officers of the executive departments” are the Cabinet officials themselves, not their subordinates. McCabe at the time was temporarily FBI director, an inferior officer to the Attorney General. So for that matter is Rod Rosenstein as a deputy AG. McCabe claims they were “counting noses” among the Cabinet members without ever bothering to raise the issue directly with any of them. The discussion McCabe describes would have been entirely inappropriate at best, not to mention constitutionally offensive and an abuse of power.
At worst … well …
Actually, yes. It’s the kind of admission that increases the perception of a “deep state” in the executive branch that considers itself the highest power in the land. It’s not up to “the highest levels of law enforcement” to remove an elected president, especially since Jeff Sessions was the highest level and apparently not part of this discussion. The only entity that can remove a president for misconduct is Congress, through impeachment and conviction. The 25th Amendment is strictly for incapacity, which does not include offending the sensibilities of law enforcement by firing an appointed inferior officer.
Also, McCabe shivs Rosenstein a bit as well. Rosenstein said last fall that any suggestion of wearing a wire when talking with the president was a joke. Nuh-uh, McCabe told Pelley:
Pelley said McCabe confirms in their interview that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein considered wearing a wire in meetings with President Trump. Previously, a Justice Department statement claimed that Rosenstein made the offer sarcastically, but McCabe said it was taken seriously.
“McCabe in [the 60 Minutes] interview says no, it came up more than once and it was so serious that he took it to the lawyers at the FBI to discuss it,” Pelley told “CBS This Morning.”
At least we know for sure who sourced the NYT on the meeting last September. Melissa Schwartz denied that McCabe or anyone associated with him provided her the material, but who else had enough of an axe to grind to leak that story?
By the way, McCabe also takes credit for starting the obstruction probe against Trump. McCabe claims he wanted to lay down a marker in case Trump fired anyone else:
“I was speaking to the man who had just … won the election for the presidency and who might have done so with the aid of the government of Russia." Former FBI acting director Andrew McCabe, Sunday on 60 Minutes. https://t.co/IVwcM11BGc pic.twitter.com/m6HwHMOqY9
— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) February 14, 2019
Former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe said he ordered an investigation into whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice as a way to preserve ongoing inquiries into Russian election meddling in case there was an effort to terminate them.
“I wanted to make sure that our case was on solid ground and if somebody came in behind me and closed it and tried to walk away from it, they would not be able to do that without creating a record of why they made that decision,” McCabe told Scott Pelley on “CBS This Morning” in an interview that aired Thursday.
At least that much was in McCabe’s authority. After this, though, it’s clear why McCabe needed to be fired, even apart from his other issues.