Trump declassification move unnerves Democrats
Graham seeks new Rosenstein testimony after explosive McCabe interview
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Thursday he would like to bring Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein back to Capitol Hill to testify about claims that the Justice Department official discussed a plan to potentially remove President Trump from office.
Graham, who serves as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, indicated his interest in hearing from Rosenstein after former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe told CBS that Rosenstein had offered to wear a wire around the president and that there were serious conversations about invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump.
"Yeah, I would like to know what happened. You're having a conversation about whether or not you're going to invoke the 25th Amendment," Graham said when asked if he would subpoena Rosenstein to testify if he didn't agree to appear before the panel.
"I imagine if the shoe were on the other foot, my Democratic colleagues would want to know about that conversation if it involved a Democrat. Absolutely, I want to hear from him at the appropriate time," he added.
The Justice Department issued a statement Thursday morning reiterating Rosenstein's denial of McCabe's comments in an excerpt of a "60 Minutes" interview released earlier in the day, calling McCabe's account "inaccurate and factually incorrect."
"The Deputy Attorney General never authorized any recording that Mr. McCabe references. 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 DAG in a position to consider invoking the 25th Amendment," a Justice Department spokesperson added in the statement.
President Trump also took to Twitter to blast McCabe as "disgraced" in a string of tweets after CBS News's Scott Pelley previewed his upcoming "60 Minutes" interview with McCabe.
Trump tweeted that McCabe "pretends to be a 'poor little Angel' when in fact he was a big part of the Crooked Hillary Scandal & the Russia Hoax." The president also pointed to a "devastating" report from a Justice Department internal watchdog that found McCabe had a "lack of candor" with FBI investigators looking into leaks tied to the bureau's probe into the Clinton Foundation during the 2016 presidential race.
The flare up comes months after a bombshell New York Times report said Rosenstein considered secretly recording Trump and discussed with senior Justice Department officials, including McCabe, the possibility of removing Trump via the 25th Amendment.
McCabe also said he instructed investigators working on the Russia investigation to examine whether Trump had obstructed justice or whether he was under the influence of Moscow.
The 25th Amendment allows a majority of the president's Cabinet to declare them unfit for office. Rosenstein has repeatedly denied the report, published in September.
"Let me be clear about this: Based on my personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment," Rosenstein said at the time, adding: "The New York Times's story is inaccurate and factually incorrect."
Following the Times report, conservatives in the House quickly demanded that Rosenstein testify about the claims, with some suggesting he should resign.
At one point, two GOP-led committees had scheduled for Rosenstein to meet with a select group of House lawmakers that included the chairmen and ranking members on the panels. In late October, House Republicans announced they would be postponing the closed-door interview with Rosenstein, citing time constraints - but it was never rescheduled.
Privately, both Republican members and conservative House Freedom Caucus members blamed one another, with Republican members saying the Freedom Caucus members on the panels protested that they wouldn't be included in the interview and Freedom Caucus members suggesting the GOP chairs were trying to protect Rosenstein.
McCabe's interview for "60 Minutes" also marked the first time that he has publicly spoken about why he opened a probe into Trump after the president fired FBI Director James Comey in 2017. Comey's firing spurred the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller to lead the federal Russia probe, which Rosenstein has overseen.
"That to me is an interesting moment in our history where the FBI folks will be talking about trying to remove the president. Rosenstein said it didn't happen. McCabe said it did ... I'm going to look at all of this," Graham said Thursday.
Graham's comments came as the Senate on Thursday voted to confirm William Barr as the new head of the Justice Department. As attorney general, Barr will take over oversight of the special counsel probe into Russia's efforts in interfere in the 2016 election.