Former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe described the conversation during which he said deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein first offered to secretly record President Donald Trump in the White House.
In a Sunday night airing of “60 Minutes,” McCabe described what he said was an “incredibly turbulent, incredibly stressful” period after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May 2017.
“I can’t describe to you accurately enough the pressure and the chaos that Rod and I were trying to operate under at that time,” McCabe said, referring to himself and Rosenstein. “It was clear to me that that stress was impacting the deputy attorney general.
McCabe said he and Rosenstein had talked about “why the president had insisted on firing the director” Comey, “and whether or not he was thinking about the Russia investigation, and did that impact his decision.”
“And in the context of that conversation, the deputy attorney general offered to wear a wire into the White House,” McCabe said.
The former deputy FBI director continued, describing Rosenstein’s argument for wearing a wire in Trump’s presence. “He said ‘I never get searched when I go into the White House, I could easily wear a recording device. They wouldn’t know it was there.'”
News reports last fall suggested Rosenstein had “joked” about wearing a wire. McCabe disputes that characterization.
“He was not joking, he was absolutely serious,” McCabe said of Rosenstein. “And in fact, he brought it up in the next meeting we had.”
The New York Times reported in September 2018 that Rosenstein offered to wear a wire in the White House. That news prompted rumblings around Washington that Trump might fire Rosenstein, but the president did not. He told reporters at the time that he and Rosenstein “actually have a very good relationship,” and said “I get along very well with him.”
On “60 Minutes” Sunday, McCabe said he “never actually considered taking Rosenstein up on the offer, but said he had discussed the deputy attorney general’s idea with the FBI’s general counsel and the leadership team there when Rosenstein brought it up the first time.
McCabe declined to speculate about why Rosenstein would suggest wearing a wire inside the White House, but he said the implication was clear.
“The reason you would have someone wear a concealed recording device would be to collect evidence. In this case, what was the true nature of the president’s motivation in calling for the firing of Jim Comey?,” McCabe asked.
For his part, Trump left little ambiguity about his intentions, telling NBC News anchor Lester Holt in 2017 that he had fired Comey, in part, because of “this Russia thing,” and that he would have fired Comey no matter what Rosenstein had advised.
McCabe said the FBI general counsel had a negative reaction to the idea of Rosenstein secretly recording Trump, figuratively describing him as having a “heart attack.”
According to McCabe, the FBI general counsel said: “That’s a bridge too far. We’re not there yet.”