• 66°

Byron York: What should happen to Rosenstein now?

Author

Byron York is chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner.

Not long after a 2017 meeting in which Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein reportedly discussed wearing a wire to secretly record conversations with President Trump, two top officials in the meeting, FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and bureau lawyer Lisa Page, went to the office of a third FBI official, general counsel James Baker.

They told Baker what Rosenstein said, according to Baker’s recent testimony to House investigators. And Baker took the news very seriously.

After Rosenstein’s comments were reported in The New York Times last month, Rosenstein sent out word through intermediaries that he hadn’t really meant it, that he was speaking sarcastically. But that is not how top FBI officials took it at the time.

“The thing that struck me the most was the serious look on Baker’s face when he was describing it,” one source close to the investigation said of Baker’s House interview. “He was conveying that they (McCabe and Page) took it seriously, and because they took it seriously, he took it seriously.”

“McCabe, Page and Baker were talking about (secretly recording the president) as a real thing, and discussing it as a serious issue,” said another source close to the investigation.

The Times reported that in a meeting held in the spring of 2017, amid the uproar over Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, Rosenstein “raised the idea of wearing a recording device, or ‘wire,’ as he put it, to secretly tape the president when he visited the White House.”

According to the Times, “One participant asked whether Mr. Rosenstein was serious, and he replied animatedly that he was.”

The Times said Rosenstein also suggested that in addition to him recording the president, other officials could, too. The paper said Rosenstein noted that White House officials did not make him give up his cellphone when visiting, “implying it would be easy to secretly record Mr. Trump.”

There has been some speculation among Hill Republicans that McCabe was behind the story, that he was trying to set Rosenstein up for a fall. Investigators wondered whether McCabe and Page were telling Baker the truth. But at the very least, Baker’s interview shows that Rosenstein’s suggestion was taken seriously.

The Times also reported that Rosenstein “discussed recruiting Cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Mr. Trump from office for being unfit.” One of the sources familiar with the investigation said that Baker, in his House interview, “did indicate that there was strong belief that Rosenstein was coordinating with two people within the administration who were contemplating invoking the 25th.”

The Rosenstein revelations intensified a long-running debate over the possibility that Trump might fire the deputy attorney general. The debate focused not so much on what should or should not happen to Rosenstein but on what effect a firing would have on the work of Trump-Russia special counsel Robert Mueller. With Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused from the Russia investigation, Rosenstein oversees Mueller’s office.

Democrats, and some Republicans, warned Trump against firing Rosenstein. “This story must not be used as a pretext for the corrupt purpose of firing Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein in order to install an official who will allow the president to interfere with the special counsel’s investigation,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer shortly after the Times story appeared.

No firing seems imminent. Rosenstein flew with President Trump on Air Force One to Florida Monday. The two men held a 45-minute discussion. After the trip, Trump was asked whether he plans to fire Rosenstein. “No, I don’t,” the president answered.

Trump’s handling of Rosenstein has baffled some Republicans. Here is a top administration official who was at the very least musing about the possibility of bugging the president and attempting a never-used strategy to remove him from office. Some might assume that Trump would fire such an official, effective immediately, and have him escorted from the building.

But there are reasons Trump has not acted, starting with next month’s elections. “One, it’s strategic timing of the midterms,” said a third source close to the investigation. “And two, there are people in the administration who are telling the president that Rosenstein is a good guy and part of the team. These are people that Trump talks to regularly.”

As for Baker, he left the FBI amid controversy in May. And, of course, McCabe and Page left the bureau amid controversy, too. They are just now beginning to tell their stories to Congress. And in the case of Rosenstein and the wearing-a-wire discussion, much more remains to be learned.

Byron York is chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner.

Comments

Local

Thousands of locals, out-of-towners gather for a groovy time at annual Hippie Fest

News

N.C. Zoo ready for expansion if lawmakers OK funding

Education

RSS budgeting for tens of millions in federal COVID-19 relief funding

East Spencer

‘Back in full swing’ for the spring: East Spencer community gathers for food, fun and fellowship at Spring Fest

Local

Rowan native Lingle among those honored with NC Military Veterans Hall of Fame induction

Business

Former pro baseball player, Tar Heel standout Russ Adams finds new career with Trident Insured

Education

Profoundly gifted: Salisbury boy finishing high school, associates degree at 12

Local

Cheerwine Festival will stick to Main Street, stay away from new park in September

Lifestyle

Celebrating Rowan County’s early cabinetmakers

Education

Service Above Self announces youth challenge winners

Business

Economic Development Commission creates search tool for people seeking Rowan County jobs

Columns

Amy-Lynn Albertson: Arts and Ag Farm Tour set for June 5

High School

High school baseball: Mustangs top Falcons on strength of hurlers

Business

Biz Roundup: Application process now open for Rowan Chamber’s 29th Leadership Rowan class

Sports

Keith Mitchell leads McIlroy, Woodland by 2 at Quail Hollow

Nation/World

States scale back vaccine orders as interest in shots wanes

Nation/World

Major US pipeline halts operations after ransomware attack

News

NC budget dance slowed as GOP leaders differ on bottom line

News

Judge limits footage that family can see of deputy shooting

Coronavirus

People receiving first dose of COVID-19 vaccine grows by less than 1%

Education

Rowan-Salisbury Schools brings Skills Rowan competition back to its roots

Business

Weak jobs report spurs questions about big fed spending

News

Judge limits footage that family can see of deputy shooting in Elizabeth City

Sports

Woodland, two others share lead; Mickelson plays much worse but will still be around for weekend at Quail Hollow