Rod Rosenstein — the deputy attorney general who has overseen the Russia probe since early 2017 — reportedly proposed wearing a wire last year to covertly document the chaos President Donald Trump was wreaking on the White House.
According to an explosive New York Times report Friday, Rosenstein suggested secretly recording the president “to expose the chaos consuming the administration” in meetings with Department of Justice and FBI officials shortly after taking control of the Russia investigation in 2017.
He also reportedly discussed attempting to convince members of Trump’s Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment, which would declare the president unfit for office.
None of his proposals appear to have been acted upon, according to the Times, but the report will almost certainly increase Trump’s ire at the deputy attorney general — and potentially put his job in jeopardy.
Rosenstein’s position has appeared to be in peril since last year, as Trump has leveled frequent attacks on him over the Russia probe. The president has also been reported on a number of occasions to be considering firing Rosenstein as part of an effort to kneecap special counsel Robert Mueller, who has been leading the Russia probe since former FBI Director James Comey was fired in May 2017.
Trump frequently attacks the investigation, describing it as a “witch hunt” conjured up by his political opponents to undermine his presidency.
But Democrats and other critics of the president have suggested that any attempt to fire Rosenstein would amount to obstructing the investigation.
So far, Rosenstein has remained in his post despite the months of public speculation. But the Times report could bring the situation to a boiling point.
The deputy attorney general denied the report in a statement to the Times.
According to the Times, Rosenstein proposed secretly recording Trump about two weeks after assuming control of the Russia probe. He was apparently disturbed that his memo criticizing Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation had been cited as cause in Trump’s sacking of the then-FBI director, and made the suggestion amid the “turmoil” that followed the termination.
The report comes as Trump ramps up his battle with federal law enforcement, including his order this week to declassify some documents related to the Russia probe, which he’s temporarily put on hold as the inspector general reviews the documents.
It also comes as he continues to weather the fallout from a recent spate of accounts describing the chaos of his administration, which included an anonymous Times op-ed from a senior Trump staffer detailing a “quiet resistance” within the White House seeking to protect the nation from the president’s “worst inclinations.”
That unnamed administration official claimed the Cabinet had weighed invoking the 25th Amendment in an effort to remove Trump from office.
The 25th Amendment contains a provision that allows the vice president and either the majority of his Cabinet or the majority of Congress to push the president out of office if he or she is “unable to discharge the powers and duties” of the office.
Some close to Trump, including former strategist Steve Bannon, have previously suggested it could be the biggest threat to his presidency. But the process would be complex and it has never been used to oust a president from office.
It’s not clear how serious Rosenstein was about his proposals, according to the Times, which cited anonymous sources familiar with the matter. Rosenstein called the report “inaccurate and factually incorrect,” and said that “based on my personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment.”