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Former FBI lawyer: Plot to record, remove Trump not a joke

By John Solomon
Opinion Cotributor

Don’t inform former FBI normal counsel James Baker that these now-infamous discussions about secretly recording President Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump, Kushner to meet with Kanye West at White House: report Pompeo calls on Saudi Arabia to back investigation into missing journalist Five takeaways from the first Senate debate in Indiana MORE and utilizing the tapes to take away him from workplace had been a joke.

He apparently doesn’t consider it. And he held fairly the vantage level — he was on the within of the bureau’s management in Could 2017, when the discussions occurred.

Baker told Congress last week that his boss — then-Performing FBI Director Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeThe winners and losers of the Supreme Court confirmation Christine Blasey Ford has a credibility problem The insufferable hypocrisy of James Comey’s Act II MORE — was useless severe in regards to the concept of surreptitiously recording the 45th president and utilizing the proof to make the case that Trump ought to be faraway from workplace, in keeping with my sources.

Baker advised lawmakers he wasn’t within the assembly that McCabe had with Deputy Legal professional Basic Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinTrump on Rosenstein: ‘Not making any changes’ Trump has ‘good talk’ with Rosenstein The Hill’s 12:30 Report — Presented by Citi — Trump has no plans to fire Rosenstein | Kavanaugh fallout | Official swearing in today MORE during which the topic got here up. However he did have firsthand conversations with McCabe and the FBI lawyer assigned to McCabe, Lisa Web page, in regards to the subject.

“So far as Baker was involved, this was an actual plan being mentioned,” mentioned a supply immediately accustomed to the congressional investigation. “It was no laughing matter for the FBI.”

Phrase of Baker’s testimony surfaces simply days earlier than Rosenstein is set to be interviewed in personal on Thursday by Home Judiciary Committee lawmakers.

Since The New York Instances first reported the allegations, Rosenstein, the No. 2 Division of Justice (DOJ) official, has tried to downplay his position in them. His workplace has steered that he thought the discussions had been a joke, that Rosenstein by no means gave an order to hold out such a plot, and that he doesn’t consider Trump ought to be faraway from workplace.

However making these statements via a spokesperson is a bit completely different than having Rosenstein himself face Congress and reply the questions underneath penalty of felony if lawmakers assume he’s mendacity.

Baker’s account to lawmakers this month clearly complicates an already difficult image for Rosenstein earlier than Congress, assuming he reveals up for Thursday’s interview.

However much more so, Baker’s story lays naked a rare dialog during which at the very least some senior FBI officers thought it inside their purview to attempt to seize the president on tape after which go to the president’s personal Cupboard secretaries, hoping to persuade the senior leaders of the administration to take away the president from energy.

Much more extraordinary is the timing of such discussions: They occurred, in keeping with Baker’s account, within the window round FBI Director James Comey’s firing. May it’s that the leaders of a wounded, shocked FBI had been looking for retribution for his or her boss’ firing with a secret recording operation?

I doubt that is the ability that Congress supposed to be exercised when it created the FBI a century in the past, or the circumstances during which the authors of the 25th Amendment imagined a president’s elimination might be engineered.

This wasn’t a president who was incapacitated on the time. He was totally exercising his powers — however in a method the FBI management didn’t like.

And that makes the FBI’s involvement within the tape-record-then-dump-Trump conversations overtly political — even when Rosenstein believed the entire concept was farcical.

Have in mind, this is identical FBI that, a couple of months earlier throughout the 2016 election, had its prime counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok speaking to Web page — his lover and the highest lawyer to McCabe — about utilizing their official powers to “stop” Trump within the election and having an “insurance coverage coverage” in opposition to the GOP nominee. That insurance coverage coverage more and more seems to be like an unverified dossier created by British intelligence operative Christopher Steele — a Trump hater himself — that was bought and paid for by the Democratic Get together and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillicon Valley: Cyberattacks expose campaign security flaws | Google reveals bug that exposed 500,000 users | Facebook exec hosted Kavanaugh celebration | Apple denies China breach report NYT: Rick Gates sought plans to use fake online identities in Trump’s 2016 campaign Election Countdown: Midterm fight heats up over Kavanaugh | McConnell sees energized base | Dems look to women to retake House | How suburban voters could decide control of Congress | Taylor Swift backs Tennessee Dems | Poll shows Cruz up 5 in Texas MORE’s marketing campaign via their mutual legislation agency.

“You stroll away from the Baker interview with little doubt that the FBI management in that 2016-17 timeframe noticed itself as excess of a impartial investigative company however really as a pressure to cease Trump’s election earlier than it occurred after which possibly reversing it after the election was over,” mentioned a supply immediately accustomed to the congressional investigation.

Baker offered another priceless insights in his congressional interview. As I reported last week, he revealed that he accepted data within the Russia investigation from a lawyer for the Democratic Nationwide Committee.

And my sources additionally affirm Baker admitted he acquired a model of Steele’s file from left-leaning reporter David Corn of Mother Jones journal, after which forwarded it to Strzok’s group. Corn says that occurred in November 2016, proper after the election.

That transaction is important for 2 causes. First, on the time Steele had simply been fired from the FBI probe for leaking to the media and he wasn’t purported to be additional helping the probe. So Corn basically acted as a again door to permit data to proceed to movement.

Secondly, the FBI was using the news media as an investigative supply outdoors the conventional chain of proof.

No matter you consider Rosenstein or the Russia probe, the statements Baker made to Congress have implications for all People.

The FBI was created to analyze crimes and cease international intelligence and terrorism threats. It was by no means designed to be a dealer within the political technique of elections or the execution of the 25th Modification.

John Solomon is an award-winning investigative journalist whose work over time has uncovered U.S. and FBI intelligence failures earlier than the Sept. 11 assaults, federal scientists’ misuse of foster youngsters and veterans in drug experiments, and quite a few circumstances of political corruption. He’s The Hill’s govt vice chairman for video.

The views expressed by contributors are their very own and never the view of The Hill.

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