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Rosenstein joked about secretly recording Trump, Justice Department officials say

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WASHINGTON — Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was joking when he discussed wearing a wire to secretly record President Donald Trump and does not believe Trump should be removed from office through the use of procedures outlined in the Constitution’s 25th Amendment, according to Justice Department officials who requested anonymity to discuss the conversation.

The officials were responding to a New York Times report that Rosenstein, in the tumultuous spring of 2017, had discussed with other Justice and FBI officials the possibility of recruiting members of Trump’s Cabinet to declare him unfit for the job and that he offered to wear a recording device during conversations with the president.

In a May, 16, 2017 meeting at a secure facility at the Justice Department — one week after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey — Rosenstein was arguing with Andrew McCabe, then the acting director of the FBI, about the president, according to a senior Justice Department official.

“Well, what do you want me to do, Andy, wear a wire?” Rosenstein asked at the meeting, which also included FBI lawyer Lisa Page and four career DOJ officials, according to the senior official. One of the career civil servants was Scott Schools, who would later go on to sign off on the firing of McCabe, the official said.

This official and a source who was in the room characterized Rosenstein’s remark as sarcastic.

The senior official further said that the reference to invoking the Constitution to remove Trump comes from a post-meeting memo written by McCabe that said the deputy attorney general “raises 25th amendment” and that Page’s notes from the same meeting do not contain any similar note.

People who have discussed the matter with McCabe, however, say he remembers Rosenstein as being serious in making the comment about wearing the wire.

Rosenstein said Friday that “there is no basis” for members of the Cabinet to use the Constitution’s 25th Amendment to remove President Donald Trump from office.

“The New York Times story is inaccurate and factually incorrect,” he said in a written statement released by the Justice Department. “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. But let me be clear about this: Based on my personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment.”

The White House had no immediate comment on the story, but Trump allies outside the administration began sounding a death knell for Rosenstein’s tenure at Justice.

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