Donald Trump dismissed advice from U.S. intelligence officials on the range of North Korean missiles, telling them he believed Vladimir Putin instead, according to an interview Sunday with former acting FBI chief Andrew McCabe.
Discussing his time at leading the agency after James Comey was fired, McCabe told 60 Minutes that Trump had been at a July 2017 briefing about Pyongyang’s strike capability, when he said he didn’t believe that North Korea had the technology to hit the U.S. with missiles — because the Russian president had told him so.
When intelligence officials told Trump that their information suggested otherwise, the president reportedly replied: “I don’t care. I believe Putin.”
“It’s just an astounding thing to say,” said McCabe, who was not present at the meeting but had been briefed on it by an FBI colleague.
“To be confronted with an absolute disbelief in those [intelligence-gathering] efforts and an unwillingness to learn the true state of affairs... was just shocking.”
McCabe, currently promoting a book on his dealings with the Trump White House, also corroborated a previously reported claim that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had talks in 2017 about potentially invoking the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to remove Trump from office and replace him with Vice President Mike Pence.
The clause, which allows for a sitting president to be ousted if they’re deemed unfit to serve, would require the support of eight of Trump’s 15-member cabinet, the vice-president, and two-thirds majorities in Congress.
He said Rosenstein had openly discussed that possibility, and was counting whether such a move would receive the necessary votes.
“The deputy attorney general was definitely very concerned about the president, about his capacity, and about his intent at that point in time,” said McCabe. “He was discussing other cabinet members and whether or not people would support such an idea.”
That claim prompted Sen Lindsey Graham, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to announce he would launch an investigation into whether the officials had plotted a “bureaucratic coup” against Trump.
“We're a democracy. People enforce the law. They can't take it into their own hands,” Graham told CBS. “And was this an attempted bureaucratic coup? … I don't know who is telling the truth.”
McCabe also claimed that Rosenstein offered to secretly record Trump, amid concerns the president could potentially be obstructing the investigation into possible collusion between his campaign and Russia.
Rosenstein has previously denied that he made any offer to record Trump, or that he discussed invoking the 25th Amendment.
Trump reacted furiously to the interview, retweeting earlier broadsides he had made against McCabe that labelled him “a disgrace to the FBI and a disgrace to our Country.” On Monday, he renewed his attack.
“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,” he tweeted, repeating his claim that the Russia probe was part of an “insurance policy” to try to unseat Trump if he won the election.
“This was the illegal and treasonous ‘insurance policy’ in full action!” he wrote.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement that McCabe had “no credibility and is an embarrassment to the men and women of the FBI and our great country.”
McCabe was fired in March by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions over having released information to the Wall Street Journal without authorization. While the case was referred to the U.S. attorney’s office for potential prosecution, no charges have been brought.
McCabe said Sunday he believed he was fired for political reasons.
“I believe I was fired because I opened a case against the president of the United States,” he said.
Cover image: A screen grab from Andrew McCabe's interview with 60 Minutes.