Washington D.C., USA : U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is in the spotlight after media reports that he suggested using a wire to secretly record President Donald Trump and invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein suggested secretly recording President Donald Trump and discussed invoking the 25th Amendment, FBI memos say.
Rosenstein talked about secretly recording the president using a wire in May 2017, memos written by then-acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe and FBI lawyer Lisa Page said, according to a Washington Post report. Rosenstein also brought up the 25th Amendment, which allows a president to be removed from office when no longer able to discharge duties.
The revelations, first reported in The New York Times, suggested Rosenstein was concerned in spring 2017 over a memo he wrote about then-FBI director James Comey, which was critical of his handling of Hillary Clinton’s email investigation, that Trump used to rationalize firing Comey.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein sharply refuted a New York Times story that says he suggested recording President Trump to show the turmoil inside the White House and talked about recruiting some in the cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to declare Mr. Trump unfit and remove him.
“The New York Times’s 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.”
Rosenstein issued an updated statement saying he “never pursued or authorized recording the President and any suggestion that I have ever advocated for the removal of the President is absolutely false.”
Rosenstein, as deputy attorney general, oversees special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether the president and his associates played a role in that effort.
Friday evening at a Springfield, Mo., rally Trump weighed in on how he felt about the FBI in light of the news.
“Look at what’s being exposed at the Department of Justice and the FBI. We have great people in the Department of Justice … but we have some real bad ones,” Trump said. “You see what’s happening at the FBI, they’re all gone, they’re all gone. But there’s a lingering stench and we’re going to get rid of that, too.”
In a separate statement, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said “the individual behind this piece has chosen to deceive, rather than support, the duly elected President of the United States.”
“This coward should do the right thing and resign,” Sanders added.
The 25th Amendment is a way, other than impeachment, provided by the Constitution for power to be taken away from a sitting president.
The law provided an answer to painful questions posed by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. The Constitution is clear that if a president dies or is killed, the vice president takes over.
But what happens if a president is grievously wounded? What if he or she is mentally incapacitated and can’t continue doing the job responsibly?
There was no legal way for the duties of the office to be discharged by anybody else, so the government would be paralyzed.
So the nation adopted the 25th Amendment, which was introduced in 1965 and ultimately ratified two years later. The text of the amendment is available here from the National Archives.
What the amendment spells out is a procedure by which members of the Cabinet can agree to notify Congress that they do not believe a president can carry out his or her duties. The officials could send a letter to Congress explaining why and, if Congress agrees by a two-thirds vote of both chambers, lawmakers could make the vice president “Acting President,” under Section 4 of the 25th Amendment.
But the president would not be taken out of office.
The original president actually could try to challenge this investiture of power in the vice president.
It is a sort of nightmare scenario that scholars describe as contested removal, in which a president would object to the idea that he’s been determined to be unwell.
And at that point, then Congress has three weeks to decide the issue. And you can just sort of imagine. It’s kind of amazing to step back and think about what that would actually be like in practice, that you would have Congress actively, openly, publicly discussing the question of whether or not the president of the United States was mentally fit to return to the presidency.
This provision in law set up this situation for a reason: Suppose a president was badly hurt in an accident and was incapacitated for several months. The 25th Amendment ensures the vice president could lawfully carry out the duties of the office for that time. Then if the president recovered, he or she could take back over and serve the rest of the term without having had to resign.
The requirement for two-thirds majorities in Congress is designed to keep this process from being used for simple political reasons and ensure that Congress and the executive branch use the 25th Amendment only in situations — like the hypothetical accident — in which it is obvious to all this is necessary.
At the same time it’s possible that a president might not agree that all this was appropriate.
There are other checks and balances in this process.
The law says that an incapacitated president can resume the duties of the office “unless the vice president and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to [legislative leaders] their written declaration that the president is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”
That’s an important detail: If a 25th Amendment process were triggered, Congress could appoint a “body,” or a board of medical experts, or other people, to give an opinion about the fitness of the president.
That might add legitimacy to all this in the midst of a crisis: The leaders of the Cabinet and the Congress could officially cite the diagnosis of a psychiatrist or other specialists.
Democrats who oppose Trump have introduced legislation that would create such a panel at least twice since Trump has been in office, Osnos told Gross — although because Republicans are the majority in the House and the Senate, the bills haven’t gone anywhere.
Trump scoffs at all the discussion about his supposed mental health problems; he and supporters denounce what they call “Trump Derangement Syndrome” among opponents who are so alarmed they become unhinged by what he freely acknowledges is an unconventional presidency.
The 25th Amendment is different from impeachment.
Impeachment — in which the House would introduce articles against the president and act as a grand jury, voting whether or not he would then stand trial in the Senate — removes a president altogether if convicted.
Congress could elect to use it in addition to the 25th Amendment in a crisis: Once a president had been sidelined and his or her power given to the vice president, Congress could then impeach the old president.
Washington would long have sailed off the map by that point. Although two modern presidents have faced articles of impeachment in the House, none has ever been convicted and removed from office, just as none has ever faced a 25th Amendment process.