Former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe said Sunday that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein "offered to wear a wire into the White House," resurfacing one of the most controversial and disputed episodes of the Justice official's tenure.
McCabe told CBS' Scott Pelley on "60 Minutes" that Rosenstein 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.'"
As CNN previously reported, Rosenstein denies he pursued any recording, and a source in the room for these conversations said Rosenstein was being sarcastic.
But in McCabe's view, Rosenstein "was not joking," disputing the narrative it was not seriously considered at the time.
"He was absolutely serious," McCabe told Pelley. "And in fact, he brought it up in the next meeting we had. I never actually considered taking him up on the offer. I did discuss it with my general counsel and my leadership team back at the FBI after he brought it up the first time."
The eyebrow-raising remarks nearly caused Rosenstein to leave the department when it was first reported last year, but he managed to stay on and continue overseeing Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.
In response to McCabe's "60 Minutes" interview, a Justice Department spokesperson issued a statement late last week, saying Rosenstein "never authorized any recording that Mr. McCabe references."
The former acting FBI director said he didn't have much to contribute when Rosenstein raised the issue of "how many Cabinet officials" would support an effort to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove President Donald Trump from office.
"So I listened to what he had to say," McCabe said. "But, to be fair, it was an unbelievably stressful time. I can't even describe for you how many things must have been coursing through the deputy attorney general's mind at that point.
"It was really something that he kinda threw out in a very frenzied chaotic conversation about where we were and what we needed to do next," McCabe said.
CNN reported in September Rosenstein discussed wearing a "wire" to record conversations with Trump and recruiting Cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office, citing sources familiar with memos authored by McCabe. Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page also documented Rosenstein's wire remark in her own contemporaneous memo, which corroborated McCabe's account.
The statement released by a Justice Department spokesperson late last week again also denied that Rosenstein pursued the 25th Amendment but it did not address whether the topic was raised.
"As the Deputy Attorney General previously has stated, based on his personal dealings with the President, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment, nor was the DAG in a position to consider invoking the 25th Amendment," the statement reads.
McCabe described to Pelley how he advocated for the appointment of a special counsel to oversee the Russia investigation. In his discussions with Rosenstein about it, McCabe claims that Rosenstein was concerned if he appointed a special counsel, "it might mean he would lose his job."
In December, CNN reported that after the firing of then-FBI Director James Comey, McCabe took the extraordinary step of opening an obstruction of justice investigation into the President before special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed in May 2017.
McCabe was fired in March by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions after an inspector general report concluded McCabe misled investigators about his role in directing other officials at the FBI to speak to The Wall Street Journal about his involvement in a public corruption investigation into the Clinton Foundation.
The Justice Department's watchdog has referred its findings on McCabe to the US Attorney's office in Washington for possible criminal charges. The case remains under investigation.
"There's absolutely no reason for anyone and certainly not for me to misrepresent what happened," McCabe told Pelley on Sunday. "So no. Did I ever intentionally mislead the people I spoke to? I did not. I had no reason to. And I did not."