Deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein denied a New York Times report Friday that he suggested that he secretly recorded U.S. President Donald Trump last year to expose chaos in the administration and that he floated the idea of using the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.
The Times cited several people, who were not named, who described episodes that came in the spring of 2017 after FBI director James Comey was fired. The newspaper said its sources also included people who were briefed on memos written by FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe.
Rosenstein took issue with the story.
"The New York Times' story is inaccurate and factually incorrect," he said in a statement. "I will not further comment on a story based on anonymous sources who are obviously biased against the department and are advancing their own personal agenda. But let me be clear about this: Based on my personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment."
The 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution spells out that a president can be declared "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office" upon a majority vote of the vice president and the cabinet.
A person who was in the room at the time, and provided a statement through the Justice Department, said Rosenstein's comment was "sarcastic" and that he "never discussed any intention of recording a conversation with the president."
FBI director Andrew McCabe, seen here in 2017, declined to comment to Times reporters. (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)
The newspaper reported that Rosenstein, frustrated with the hiring process for a new FBI director after Comey's firing, offered to wear a "wire" and secretly record the president when he visited the White House. He also suggested that McCabe could also perhaps record Trump, the newspaper said.
McCabe's lawyer, Michael Bromwich, said in a statement that his client had drafted memos to "memorialize significant discussions he had with high level officials and preserved them so he would have an accurate, contemporaneous record of those discussions."
McCabe's memos, which were later turned over to special counsel Robert Mueller's office, had remained at the FBI until McCabe was ousted in January and McCabe doesn't know how any reporters might have obtained them, Bromwich said.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Friday that the Times report must not be used for the "corrupt purpose" of firing Rosenstein. Schumer said other top administration officials remain in their jobs despite having had critical comments about Trump attributed to them.
Rosenstein oversees the investigation into possible co-ordination between Trump's presidential campaign and Russia.
Trump says the investigation is a "witch hunt" and has frequently targeted Rosenstein.