The New York Times reported that in the days and weeks following Jim Comey’s firing, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein “suggested … that he secretly record President Trump in the White House to expose the chaos consuming the administration” and spoke with then–Deputy Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe about recruiting Jeff Sessions and John Kelly “to mount an effort to invoke the 25th Amendment,” the constitutional process by which the Cabinet can remove a president from office.
The Times reported that Rosenstein had talked about wearing a wire, as well as the 25th amendment, “in meetings and conversations with other Justice Department and F.B.I. officials” and that remarks were later recorded in “memos written by F.B.I. officials, including Andrew G. McCabe.”
McCabe’s lawyer said that McCabe had given over his memos to the special counsel and that a copy of them was also in the FBI office. McCabe’s lawyer said “he has no knowledge of how any member of the media obtained those memos.”
Rosenstein, the Times said, also told “other F.B.I. officials who were interviewing to be the bureau’s director could also secretly record Mr. Trump.” The Times also said that someone asked Rosenstein if he was being sincere about the suggestion and “he replied animatedly that he was.”
Rosenstein told the New York Times that its story was “inaccurate and factually incorrect” and that “based on my personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment.” Furthermore, a DOJ spokesperson gave the Times a statement “from a person who was present” when Rosenstein made the suggestion of recording the president: The person said Rosenstein suggested it but had done so “sarcastically.”
The Washington Post, giving a slightly different breakdown of the events, reported that the recording and 25th Amendment remarks came from a memo of McCabe’s meeting with Rosenstein after Comey was fired. The Post cites a third attendee at the meeting who “insisted the recording comment was said in a moment of sarcasm, and that the 25th amendment was not discussed.” The Post reported that the wire comment was a reply to McCabe’s own idea of a DOJ investigation into Trump, to which Rosenstein responded, “What do you want to do, Andy, wire the president?”*
One irony of Rosenstein reportedly being so troubled by Trump’s conduct during and after the firing of James Comey is that he played a crucial role in justifying the move by writing a memo outlining Comey’s misconduct in the Hillary Clinton emails investigation.
Update, Sept. 21, 2018, at 3:41 p.m.: This post has been updated to include the Washington Post’s reporting.