Former FBI official feared Rosenstein gave Trump cover story to fire Comey over Russia probe: report
Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe reportedly claimed in a memo he wrote last year that President Trump linked firing FBI Director James Comey to the Russia investigation in a conversation he had with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that McCabe described second-hand a conversation he heard about from Rosenstein, who spoke with Trump about firing Comey. According to McCabe, Trump asked Rosenstein to mention Russia in his memo recommending Comey’s termination.
However, Russia and the investigation of the country’s interference in the 2016 election were not mentioned in Rosenstein’s final document.
McCabe, according to the Times, believed that Rosenstein may have provided a cover story for Trump to fire Comey over the Russia probe by writing, instead, about the former director’s handling of the probe into 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
But according to the Times’s sources, Rosenstein in his recounting of the conversation with Trump said the president wanted Russia mentioned. One person familiar with what Rosenstein said reportedly thought Trump wanted his deputy attorney general to confirm that Trump was not under investigation in the Russia probe.
McCabe has turned over his memo about the conversation to special counsel Robert Mueller, according to the Times.
Spokespeople for McCabe and the Justice Department declined to comment to the Times.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired McCabe earlier this year after an inspector general report found that he was not forthright with investigators and that he made an unauthorized disclosure to the media.
McCabe has disputed the report’s findings.
Trump has given varied reasonings for firing Comey, linking the Russia probe to his decision to dismiss the FBI head in an NBC News interview last year. Trump’s reasons for firing Comey are considered key to a possible obstruction of justice investigation.
However, he tweeted last month that Comey’s firing was not related to the investigation.
Rosenstein is a key figure in Mueller’s probe into Russia’s election interference. He appointed Mueller to the position last year after Comey’s firing, and it’s believed that he has the authority to fire the special counsel.
It has also been reported that Trump has considered firing Rosenstein, and the FBI official has told friends that he is prepared for his imminent dismissal.
–Updated at 7:57 p.m.