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Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe told CBS News' "60 Minutes" that he ordered obstruction of justice and counterintelligence investigations into President Donald Trump after a conversation with him immediately after he fired James Comey as FBI director.
McCabe, who was ousted from the bureau after becoming acting director last March following Comey's firing in May 2017, told CBS's Scott Pelley that he was concerned Trump would try to make the overall investigation into Russian election meddling go away.
"I was speaking to the man who had just run for the presidency and won the election for the presidency, and who might have done so with the aid of the government of Russia, our most formidable adversary on the world stage," McCabe said. "And that was something that troubled me greatly. "
One day after that conversation, McCabe said he "met with the team investigating the Russia cases."
"And I asked the team to go back and conduct an assessment to determine where are we with these efforts and what steps do we need to take going forward," he said. "I was very concerned that I was able to put the Russia case on absolutely solid ground in an indelible fashion, that were I removed quickly and reassigned or fired, that the case could not be closed or vanish in the night without a trace."
"I wanted to make sure that our case was on solid ground," he continued. "And if somebody came in behind me and closed it and tried to walk away from it, they would not be able to do that without creating a record of why they'd made that decision."
Trump has repeatedly criticized the various investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, possible collusion with Russia by his campaign associates and possible obstruction of justice, claiming they are part of a broader "witch hunt." The president and his legal team have answered some questions from special counsel Robert Mueller's team about Russian interference in the 2016 election but not about possible obstruction.
The president attacked McCabe on Twitter after an initial clip of his interview with Pelley aired Thursday on "CBS This Morning," calling him "a big part of the Crooked Hillary Scandal & the Russia Hoax — a puppet for Leakin’ James Comey."
The full interview will be broadcast Sunday on "60 Minutes."
On "CBS This Morning," Pelley provided more details about the interview, including McCabe's description of the aftermath of Comey's firing, saying there were "meetings at the Justice Department at which it was discussed whether the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet could be brought together to remove the president of the United States under the 25th Amendment."
"These were the eight days from Comey's firing to the point that Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel," he continued. "And the highest levels of American law enforcement were trying to figure out what do with the president."
In an interview with NBC News' Andrea Mitchell, Vice President Mike Pence said, however, that he "never heard of any discussion of the 25th amendment, and, frankly, I find any mention of it to be absurd." He added that he "couldn't be more proud" of Trump's accomplishments in office, "and the words of a disgraced FBI agent won't change that fact for the American people."
On Thursday, Pelley also said McCabe confirmed in the interview that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein did consider wearing a wire in meetings with the president. When that information was reported last year, it nearly led to Rosenstein's exit from the Justice Department. Although a prior Justice Department statement said the proposal was made in jest, McCabe said it was taken seriously, Pelley said.
McCabe "says no, it came up more than once, and it was so serious that he took it to the lawyers at the FBI to discuss it," Pelley said.
In a statement Thursday, the Justice Department disputed McCabe's assertions in the interview, calling his recollections "inaccurate and factually incorrect."
"The Deputy Attorney General never authorized any recording that Mr. McCabe references," the department's statement said. "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."
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, meanwhile, said in a statement that McCabe "was fired in total disgrace from the FBI because he lied to investigators on multiple occasions, including under oath."
"His selfish and destructive agenda drove him to open a completely baseless investigation into the President," she continued. "His actions were so shameful that he was referred to federal prosecutors. Andrew McCabe has no credibility and is an embarrassment to the men and women of the FBI and our great country."
McCabe was fired last year — just before his planned retirement — in the aftermath of a Justice Department inspector general's report said he misled investigators regarding a leak about the FBI's investigation of the Clinton Foundation, which he denies. The inspector general referred its findings to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia last year for possible prosecution, and prosecutors reportedly have convened a grand jury on the matter.
In an excerpt from McCabe's upcoming book "The Threat," which was published by The Atlantic on Thursday, McCabe describes a call he received from the president on his first day as acting director. Details of that call, in which McCabe says Trump expressed anger that Comey was allowed to fly home from Los Angeles on a government plane after his firing, were first reported by NBC News in January 2018.
McCabe recounts that near the end of their conversation, Trump brought up his wife's 2015 bid for Virginia state Senate as a Democrat.
Trump "said, 'How is your wife?' I said, 'She’s fine.' He said, 'When she lost her election, that must have been very tough to lose. How did she handle losing? Is it tough to lose?' I replied, 'I guess it’s tough to lose anything. But she’s rededicated herself to her career and her job and taking care of kids in the emergency room. That’s what she does,'" McCabe wrote.
"He replied in a tone that sounded like a sneer," McCabe continued. "He said, 'Yeah, that must’ve been really tough. To lose. To be a loser.'”
Trump has repeatedly claimed that donations made to Jill McCabe's state Senate campaign by close Clinton ally and then-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe's political action committee played a role in 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton not being charged by the FBI over her use of a private email server as secretary of state. But the FBI reportedly said its former deputy director did take on oversight of the Clinton email investigation until after his wife lost that race.
In a second tweet attacking McCabe on Thursday, Trump wrote, "Many of the top FBI brass were fired, forced to leave, or left. McCabe’s wife received BIG DOLLARS from Clinton people for her campaign - he gave Hillary a pass."
Later Thursday morning, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said in a statement that it was "imperative" that McCabe and other officials appear before his committee to explain why, after the start of the Russia investigation, they sought a surveillance warrant on a former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, Carter Page, and "answer questions about what appears to be, now more than ever, bias against President Trump."