WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday accused former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe of “treasonous” actions after the ousted law enforcement official said that top Justice Department officials had discussed the possibility of invoking the 25th Amendment to remove the president from office.
Trump, in a series of Presidents Day morning tweets, took aim at McCabe, who told CBS' “60 Minutes” that he ordered top bureau officials to investigate Trump’s purported ties to Russia and whether the president attempted to obstruct justice by firing former FBI Director James Comey in 2017.
McCabe, a more than 20-year veteran of the FBI, said Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had discussed the possibility of recruiting Cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office over concerns the president was acting against America’s interests with regard to Russia.
“Wow, so many lies by now disgraced acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe. He was fired for lying, and now his story gets even more deranged,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “He and Rod Rosenstein, who was hired by Jeff Sessions (another beauty), look like they were planning a very illegal act, and got caught.”
McCabe, who has been promoting the release of his new book, was fired from the FBI last March after an internal FBI investigation found that he misled investigators about his disclosure of information to reporters. McCabe has denied the investigation’s findings and said Sunday he believed he was targeted by Trump, who often railed about McCabe and the special counsel’s Russia probe while he was on the job. Sessions, the former attorney general, was forced out after the midterm election.
Trump continued: “There is a lot of explaining to do to the millions of people who had just elected a president who they really like and who has done a great job for them with the Military, Vets, Economy and so much more. This was the illegal and treasonous ‘insurance policy’ in full action!”
The president was likely referring to a 2016 text message exchange between former FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page in which Strzok wrote “there’s no way” Trump gets elected, “but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.”
Trump has used the exchange to make the case that the investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia was part of a “deep state” effort to oust him from office. A report by the Justice Department’s inspector general released last June said “Strzok said the reference in his text message to an ‘insurance policy’ reflected his conclusion that the FBI should investigate the allegations [of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia] thoroughly right away, as if Trump were going to win,” despite polls showing Hillary Clinton leading at the time.
In the “60 Minutes” interview, McCabe said Rosenstein briefly raised the possibility of invoking the 25th Amendment over growing concerns that Trump was allegedly acting on the behest of the Kremlin. Rosenstein appointed special counsel Robert Mueller to oversee the Russia probe.
“Discussion of the 25th Amendment was simply Rod raised the issue and discussed it with me in the context of thinking about how many other Cabinet officials might support such an effort,” McCabe said. “I didn't have much to contribute, to be perfectly honest ... so I listened to what he had to say. But, to be fair, it was an unbelievably stressful time. I can't even describe for you how many things must have been coursing through the deputy attorney general's mind at that point. So it was really something that he kinda threw out in a very frenzied chaotic conversation about where we were and what we needed to do next.”
McCabe’s spokeswoman Melissa Schwartz, in a statement released days before the “60 Minutes” interview, sought to walk back McCabe’s remarks on the 25th Amendment, saying “at no time did Mr. McCabe participate in any extended discussions about the use of the 25th Amendment, nor is he aware of any such discussions.”
“He was present and participated in a discussion that included a comment by Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein regarding the 25th Amendment,” Schwartz said.
The Justice Department has pushed back against McCabe’s claims, issuing a statement last week that said: “As the Deputy Attorney General previously has stated, based on his personal dealings with the President, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment, nor was the [deputy attorney general] in a position to consider invoking the 25th Amendment."
“As to the specific portions of this interview provided to the Department of Justice by '60 Minutes' in advance, the Deputy Attorney General again rejects Mr. McCabe’s recitation of events as inaccurate and factually incorrect," the department said in a statement.