FIRST, IN BREAKING NEWS: Coming on the heels of Andrew McCabe’s 60 MINUTES interview on Sunday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is expected to leave the Justice Department by mid-March. Gosh, apparently he’s not the person new Attorney General Bill Barr wants as his second-in-command. One can only hope this is just the first step he’s taking in cleaning out a Justice Department that Kim Strassel of the Wall Street Journal describes as “a hot mess of finger-pointing, leaks, planted press narratives, obstruction and extraordinary self-righteousness.”
In my most recent commentary about the McCabe interview, I mentioned that former FBI General Counsel James Baker testified last fall that he’d been told Rosenstein had the support of two Cabinet members for the removal of Trump via the 25th Amendment. Some media outlets have mentioned this bit of information as they would say “please pass the butter,” but it’s stunning, especially when one is reminded of who the two Cabinet members reportedly were. So it was important to me to go back and research the timeline on what was reported, when it was said, and by whom, and to lay it out in an easily understandable way, so here goes…
RELATED READING: McCabe follow-up now that 60 MINUTES has aired
The New York Times reported last September 21 that, according to their sources, not only had Rosenstein talked about invoking the 25th Amendment, but he had said he thought he could persuade at least two Cabinet members to do it: John Kelly, then head of Homeland Security, and...JEFF SESSIONS. (Recall that Sessions hired Rosenstein.) That seems like blockbuster news, but, then again, it came from the NYT, which has jumped on numerous reports that turned out to be wrong. Maybe that’s why that detail seems to have disappeared into the ether until now.
But now, we know that last October 3 –- after the NYT story –- James Baker testified before Congressional committees, saying, “I had the impression that the deputy attorney general had already discussed this with two members in the President’s Cabinet and that they were...onboard with this concept already.” So that lends some credence to the NYT story. (As I like to say, even a broken clock is right twice a day.)
As part of his October 3 testimony, Baker also said, “My recollection is that there were discussions about it over a longer period than the course of one meeting...a couple of days.”
Last night on 60 MINUTES, McCabe said that Rosenstein was actually talking about “counting votes, or possible votes” of Cabinet members. He told Scott Pelley that Rosenstein had said he’d had discussions about the number of Cabinet members “and others” needed to invoke the 25th Amendment.
Of course, McCabe is not known for being a fountain of truth; he’s being criminally investigated for having withheld information from FBI questioners when it suited his interests. So we can’t just take what he says at face value, any more than we can automatically believe what we read in the New York Times. But the accounts are starting to stack up and tend to reinforce each other.
You know, I cringe at some of the President’s tweets, but when he responded to the McCabe interview by calling this activity “illegal and treasonous” and an “illegal coup attempt,” he was on the right track. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsay Graham, who is promising hearings into this to find out what they were doing and will issue subpoenas if necessary, has also said these claims described “an attempted bureaucratic coup” and that this was “one of the most significant moments in American history if it’s true.” I myself have called this a “bloodless coup.” There are other terms for it: “lawyers’ coup,” “soft coup.” In this case, they didn’t get it to the next level, but there are now enough accounts from enough different sources for us to conclude that they were definitely plotting at the highest levels to unseat the President.
And if –- IF –- these two then-Cabinet members, John Kelly and Jeff Sessions, are the ones who either might have been open to the idea or were already “onboard” with it (different accounts word it differently), we have to look at the implications. John Kelly, then head of Homeland Security, took the job with Trump to work in the White House as chief of staff. That would have put him in quite a position to find a “weak spot” to use in taking down the President. And Jeff Sessions...well, knowing he might have been open to a plan such as this –- and, repeat, WE DON’T KNOW FOR SURE –- would explain a lot about his performance as attorney general.
Rosenstein’s office released a strong denial, but it didn’t really deny much. As you might recall, we parsed it the other day, notably the part that used present-tense “is” instead of past-tense “was.” (Depends on what the definition of “is” is.) It also said he never AUTHORIZED making recordings, when he hasn’t been accused of that, just of talking about doing it.
After the 60 MINUTES interview aired, I asked the question, “How on earth does Rod Rosenstein still have his job?” Thankfully, it now appears the Era Of Rosenstein is over, but according to Victor Davis Hanson, speaking on Tucker Carlson’s show, it appears he had created a “pseudo-immunity,” based on the media-driven narrative that if Trump fired him, it was the same as tampering with the Mueller investigation. He pointed out what we’ve said, that Rosenstein and McCabe both were well aware that the 25th Amendment was limited to situations regarding incapacitation, as with Woodrow Wilson after his stroke and perhaps during the last week of FDR’s life. They knew it wasn’t for cases in which they had a President they simply disagreed with. Yet they were talking about overthrowing a duly-elected President.
Pelley conducted a ridiculously softball interview. As Hanson noted, there’s so much he could have asked –- about the “insurance policy,” for one thing –- that he never got close to. There was nothing about the FISA applications, either, that were made while Trump was still a candidate. If they did delve into such territory, it was edited out of the final interview. (Keep in mind that editing largely shapes these “news” interviews, positively or negatively. Don Hewitt once bragged that his editing of the Bill and Hillary Clinton “Gennifer Flowers” interview on 60 MINUTES got Bill the nomination.)
Hanson suggested something we’ve also discussed, that one possibility is the top echelon at the FBI expected Hillary to be elected and assumed they’d be rewarded for their efforts. Then Trump won. Ruh-roh! Since they’d had no grounds for opening their anti-Trump counterintelligence investigation, they thought, “Oh, (bleep)! How do we cover for this?”
Be sure and read Hanson’s comprehensive piece, “Autopsy Of A Dead Coup”:
If McCabe was fudging in the 60 MINUTES interview, it was likely in areas that would put him in more legal peril, such as the question of whether he had participated in the conversations about secret recordings, etc. He denied that he had. Remember, he currently is under criminal investigation for lying to FBI investigators.
One positive note, from Charles Lane of the Washington Post, is that we finally have what he calls a “full-fledged attorney general.” The Trump administration started out with Jeff Sessions, who immediately recused himself from all things Russia and essentially left the Justice Department in the hands of Rod Rosenstein. Trump certainly wanted Sessions gone, and Rosenstein as well, but any attempt by him to banish them would have been viewed by political opponents as “obstruction,” just as they had viewed Comey’s firing, even though all three richly deserved to be gone. After the midterms and Sessions’ departure, we had Matt Whitaker for a few months as a place-holder, and now we finally have a real, fully-functioning attorney general in Bill Barr.
Maybe we should nickname him “Crowbar,” now that Rosenstein has finally been pried out.
A postscript: Laura Ingraham on her show Monday night noted that for behavior that should be considered out of bounds and even treasonous, some in media are calling McCabe “a patriot.” Get ready; we’ll be hearing a lot more of this drivel. But she also visited with a couple of former FBI officials –- former FBI Assistant Director for Intel Kevin Brock and former deputy Assistant Director of Counterterrorism Terry Turchie –- who considered this behavior to be “egregious” and “a huge embarrassment” that manipulated people into thinking there might have been a legitimate reason for investigating Trump when there wasn’t. McCabe was portrayed as the victim, when he’s out there selling books and doing more damage.
To his credit, Turchie went even farther, saying the big problem is that the Democratic Party “turning harder and harder left” is “in itself a major national security risk.” (Thank you!!) We still don’t know who else was involved and whether there might still exist a group appointed by McCabe, etc., before they left. Who, ultimately, orchestrated this?
A must-watch interview if you haven’t seen it…