This story was updated Sept. 21 at 4:30 p.m. EST
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein proposed wearing a wire to secretly record President Trump, and raised the possibility of forcibly removing the president through the 25th Amendment, The New York Times reported Friday.
The Washington Post, ABC News and other outlets backed up the broad outlines of the Times report moments later, but several reported that Rosenstein’s idea about bugging the president may have been mentioned in jest.
“What do you want to do, Andy, wire the president?” Rosenstein allegedly said, according to one unnamed person who spoke to the Post. That comment was made in response to a push by former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe to investigate Trump, the Post cited the person as saying.
Discussions between Rosenstein and McCabe took place in the chaotic aftermath of Trump’s May 2017 decision to fire FBI Director James Comey. And both the Times and the Post repeatedly refer to memos written by McCabe during that period.
The Times cites unnamed people who “were briefed either on the events themselves or on memos written by FBI officials,” including McCabe. The Post refers to unnamed people describing the McCabe memos.
Rosenstein broadly denies the allegations.
Here’s what we know so far:
—Rosenstein made the remarks about secretly recording Trump and about the 25th Amendment in meetings and conversations with other Justice Department and FBI officials, according to the Times. But none of Rosenstein’s proposals apparently came to fruition.
—Rosenstein told McCabe, who succeeded Comey as acting FBI director, that he thought he could convince Attorney General Jeff Sessions and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly to get behind an effort to remove Trump using the 25th Amendment, a measure that sets off a complex process for kicking a president out of office, the Times said.
—In a statement, McCabe’s lawyer confirmed the existence of memos and said that McCabe has no idea how journalists might have gotten them.
— Rosenstein was caught off guard when Trump very publicly used a document written by him as justification for firing Comey, according to the Times report.
—The Justice Department provided a statement to the Times from an unnamed person who confirmed hearing Rosenstein’s remarks about wearing a wire to tape Trump, but the person said the comment appeared to have been made sarcastically. NBC News reported that an unnamed person in the room both confirmed the comment and said it was a joke.
In a statement to the Times, Rosenstein called the story inaccurate. “I will not further comment on a story based on anonymous sources who are obviously biased against the department and are advancing their own personal agenda,” Rosenstein said. “But let me be clear about this: Based on my personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment.”
Friday’s reports appear likely to create new friction between Trump and his deputy attorney general. Rosenstein has been overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into the Trump campaign’s links to Russia, following the recusal of Sessions.
Trump has repeatedly blasted that investigation as a “witch hunt,” and House Republicans have considered mounting a campaign to impeach Rosenstein.
But Trump had in recent weeks been warming to the embattled official.
In August, he told The Wall Street Journal that their relationship is “fantastic!,” amid what the newspaper called the fresh signs that the bonds between the two men were on the mend.
This story is developing. Please refresh for updates.
Cover image: Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announces grand jury indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, U.S., July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis