James Baker, the former general counsel of the FBI, testified to Congress last year that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told him two members of President Donald Trump’s cabinet were open to invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office after he fired FBI Director James Comey.
On Tuesday, Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, released a transcript of Baker’s testimony to the public.
According to the transcript, Baker made the revelation toward the end of the hearing, after Republican Rep. Jim Jordan asked him about reports that Rosenstein had discussed invoking the 25th Amendment and wearing a wire to record his conversations with Trump.
According to The New York Times, Rosenstein first raised the issues in the spring of 2017 with Justice Department and FBI officials, shortly after Trump fired then-FBI Director James Comey. The Times cited sources who were briefed on the conversations or on memos about Rosenstein that were written by former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe.
Baker told Jordan that McCabe and Lisa Page, then an FBI lawyer, told him Rosenstein was considering recording his conversations with Trump in case any of it was relevant to the bureau’s investigation into whether Trump obstructed justice in the Russia investigation by firing Comey.
“That is what my understanding was,” Baker said. “I may be surmising that.”
“Was there anything talked about the 25th Amendment issue?” Jordan asked.
“Yes,” Baker said.
“So both,” Jordan said.
“Yes,” Baker replied.
Jordan then asked, “And you took their conversation as completely serious that Mr. Rosenstein was serious about wearing a wire and recording the President for both of those reasons?”
“No,” Baker said. “I didn’t connect the 25th Amendment thing to the wire. Maybe it was my mistake mentally. I connected that more to the obstruction matter.”
He added: “The 25th Amendment conversation, my understanding was that there was a conversation in which it was said, I believe by [Rosenstein], that there were — that there were two members of the cabinet who were willing to go down this road already.”
While Rosenstein does not have the authority to invoke the 25th Amendment — that power belongs only to Cabinet officials— he mentioned to McCabe that he might be able to persuade then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions and then-White House chief of staff, John Kelly, who were both members of the Cabinet, to lead an effort to remove Trump from office, The Times reported.
The story sent shockwaves through Washington and sparked immediate speculation that the president would oust the embattled deputy attorney general.
But a Washington Post report published shortly after The Times’ story broke described a source as saying that Rosenstein’s comment about wearing a wire was made sarcastically after McCabe pushed for the DOJ to investigate Trump.
The newspaper said the source was at the meeting where McCabe’s memos say the conversations about the 25th Amendment and recordings took place, though the person said Rosenstein didn’t raise the possibility of invoking the amendment.
The source described Rosenstein’s comment as along the lines of, “What do you want to do, Andy, wire the president?”
A contemporaneous memo of the meeting created by Page also did not mention anything about Rosenstein bringing up the amendment, The Post said, citing a person familiar with Page’s account.
Rosenstein has vehemently denied the allegations that he discussed the 25th Amendment or wearing a wire. The deputy attorney general initially planned on leaving the Justice Department last month following the conclusion of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, which Rosenstein oversaw. But late last month, it was reported that Rosenstein would stay on “indefinitely” at the department.