The Slatest

In Tense Meeting, Rosenstein and McCabe Reportedly Each Told the Other to Recuse Himself From Russia Investigation

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 20:  (L-R) Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe other law enforcement officials hold a news conference to announce an 'international cybercrime enforcement action' at the Department of Justice July 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump said Wednesday in an interview with the New York Times that he never would have appointed Sessions had he known Sessions would recuse himself from overseeing the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. 'Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else,' Trump said.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Attorney General Jeff Sessions stands between Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe at a Department of Justice press conference.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The simmering differences between Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and former-acting FBI director Andrew McCabe have resurfaced this week as congressional investigators look into Rosenstein’s May 2017 comments reportedly suggesting a wiretap of President Trump and floating invoking the 25th Amendment. And the pair’s relationship was even worse than previously reported, as the Washington Post reported Wednesday that Robert Mueller was dragged into the high-stakes standoff as both Rosenstein and McCabe said the other should recuse himself from the Russia probe that was kicking into high gear under the newly appointed special counsel.

The recusal-off, which ended in neither actually stepping aside, showed the level of distrust between the high-ranking officials at a time when Trump had just fired FBI director James Comey, touting a critical letter written by Rosenstein as the impetus for the move. That angered many at the FBI, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice. McCabe thought the letter was enough for Rosenstein to step aside. Rosenstein, on the other hand, questioned McCabe’s decision to investigate possible obstruction of justice in the wake of Comey’s firing, a move Rosenstein believed could be framed as retribution by the bureau.

From the Post:

Some in the bureau eyed Rosenstein warily, because he had authored a memo that was used by the administration to justify Comey’s termination. If the president had obstructed justice, they reasoned, Rosenstein may have played a role in that. Justice Department officials, meanwhile, were concerned that the FBI—and McCabe in particular—may have acted too hastily to open an investigative file on the president after Comey was fired and that the move could be painted as an act of anger or revenge…

While the accounts of current and former officials familiar with the confrontation differ in some key respects, they agree on the basic terms of the discussion—Rosenstein wanted McCabe out of the Russia probe, and McCabe felt differently, arguing that it was the deputy attorney general, not the head of the FBI, who should step away from the case.

“[Rosenstein and McCabe’s] mistrust has continued to this day, with defenders of each offering conflicting accounts of exactly what was said and meant in the days surrounding Mueller’s appointment,” according to the Post. McCabe was later fired for allegedly lying to FBI investigators, while Rosenstein is currently still holding on, but how long that lasts remains unclear.