James Baker is the former general counsel of the FBI. Last October, he was interviewed by members of the House about the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the election and related matters. Rep. Doug Collins has just released a transcript of the interview.
Baker testified about the idea of Rod Rosenstein possibly wearing a wire to record President Trump, a matter that has received much attention. In addition, he testified that he heard there were two members of the Cabinet who were willing to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove President Trump from office. I don’t recall hearing this before.
Here is the portion of the transcript that relates to this shocking allegation:
Mr. Jordan: So, Mr. Baker, you said your understanding was based on what Mr. McCabe and Ms. Page told you that Mr. Rosenstein was contemplating recording the President because of the obstruction of justice issue?
Mr. Baker: That is what my understanding was. I may be surmising that.
Mr. Jordan: Was there anything talked about the 25th Amendment issue?
Mr. Baker: Yes.
Mr. Jordan: So both.
Mr. Baker: Yes.
Mr. Jordan: So both. 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?
Mr. Baker: No, no. 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. The 25th Amendment conversation, my
understanding was that there was a conversation in which it was said I believe by the DAG [Rod Rosenstein] that there were — that there were two members of the cabinet who were willing to go down this road already.
It was Andrew McCabe who told Baker about the 25th Amendment conversation:
Ms. Suzanne Grooms (Democratic committee staffer): Somebody told you that the DAG had spoken about the 25th Amendment. Is that accurate?
A: Andy McCabe told me that the DAG had talked about the 25th Amendment.
Q: And what did Mr. McCabe tell you?
A: To the best of my recollection he told me that the DAG said that he had at least two members of the cabinet who were ready to invoke the 25th Amendment. . . .
Q: And did they — did Mr. McCabe explain to you in what context the 25th Amendment came up?
A Again, I think the DAG was struggling with figuring out what to do in the aftermath of the firing of Director Comey, and he was talking about and saying lots of different things. And my understanding these were long meetings that they had over at the department with the deputy, the deputy attorney general and that they were talking about lots of things, and these were two pieces of information among others that I heard about.
It’s important to note that Baker didn’t hear Rosenstein say that two Cabinet members wanted to invoke the 25th Amendment. Baker is reporting what he heard McCabe say Rosenstein said.
Baker might have misreported what McCabe said. McCabe might have misreported what Rosenstein said. Rosenstein might have misreported what the two Cabinet members said.
On the other hand, it’s quite possible that two members of the Trump Cabinet really did support invoking the 25th Amendment to push the president out of office. Which two? Baker didn’t say. Maybe he doesn’t know.
It’s scandalous if any member of the Trump Cabinet, or indeed any government official, considered using the 25th Amendment to remove Trump in response to the firing of James Comey. We’re no longer a democracy when a president risks removal via the 25th Amendment for exercising his decisionmaking authority in ways that displease unelected officials.
There’s a good chance that any Cabinet member who entertained this option is now an ex-Cabinet member. Even so, I hope that one day we will find out whether there really were such Cabinet members and, if so, which ones they were.