A new report reveals that our FBI officials may have been deeply compromised by a debunked Trump-Russia conspiracy theory and bogus “dossier.”
Business Insider reported that James Baker, the former general counsel of the FBI, testified to Congress last year that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told him two members of President Donald Trump’s cabinet were open to invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office after he fired FBI Director James Comey.
On Tuesday, Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, released a transcript of Baker’s testimony to the public.
According to the transcript, Baker made the revelation toward the end of the hearing, after Republican Rep. Jim Jordan asked him about reports that Rosenstein had discussed invoking the 25th Amendment and wearing a wire to record his conversations with Trump.
AG William Barr testified before Congress that he does believe Trump’s campaign was spied on.
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Former FBI General Counsel James Baker said top officials at the Justice Department and FBI discussed appointing a special counsel before the firing of FBI Director James Comey.
After the firing, officials wondered if Trump had fired Comey at the behest of Russia, Baker testified during a closed-door interview in front of the House Judiciary and Oversight committees in October 2018.
Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., released a transcript of the interview Wednesday.
Baker served as the FBI’s top lawyer from 2014 to 2018, and he held that key role amid two high-profile investigations: the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email practices and mishandling of classified information, as well as the investigation into any alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government in 2016.
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., told Baker, “We now have evidence that would suggest that a special prosecutor was being discussed prior to the firing of Director Comey,” and said information came from “[Justice Department official] Bruce Ohr’s notes where he was having conversations about a special prosecutor in March of 2017.”
Meadows asked Baker, “Did you have conversations prior to the firing of James Comey about a special prosecutor?”
Baker said, “To the best of my recollection, that topic came up, but I don’t remember a specific conversation sitting here today about it, but I remember it coming up.” He said he couldn’t remember why it was mentioned as a possibility.
“What would be the conflict of you all continuing your investigation?” Meadows asked.
Baker said, “I think it was as the Russia investigation was moving forward and the interactions that the President was having with the director, Director Comey, and it was sort of on the margins of some type of conversation.”
“I don’t even remember who said it, quite honestly, but I’m telling you that the topic did come up before the firing,” Baker said.
Under questioning from Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, Baker revealed he was unable to recall specifically who he had conversations about the appointment of a special counsel with prior to Comey’s firing. “I think it was a passing conversation that could have been with the Director [Comey], with the Deputy Director [Andrew McCabe], and some of the other senior leaders,” he said.
When pressed by Jordan on why Baker was discussing obstruction of justice and a special counsel prior to Comey’s firing, Baker’s attorney intervened, saying, “We’ll have to instruct the witness not to respond to a question that specific that pertains to special counsel ongoing investigative efforts.”
Trump fired Comey on May 9, 2017, and one of the memos leaked by Comey to a friend was described in the New York Times on May 16, 2017. Comey claims his memos are contemporaneous notes on his interactions with Trump, and the contents are hotly disputed. Comey later told Congress that he leaked the memo to prompt a special counsel investigation. The day after the New York Times report, Mueller was appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to investigate possible coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government in 2016.
Newly unsealed court records from 2017 reveal that Mueller considered Comey to be a “witness” in his investigation and considered the Comey memos to be “evidence.”
Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, asked Baker whether “there was a discussion … about whether or not President Trump had been ordered to fire Jim Comey by the Russian government.”
Baker replied, “I wouldn’t say ordered. I guess I would say the words I sort of used earlier, acting at the behest of and somehow following directions, somehow executing their will. So literally an order or not, I don’t know.”
Baker said they considered “the other extreme … that the President is completely innocent,” too.
Mueller finished his investigation more two weeks ago and, according to a summary by Attorney General William Barr, did not find any criminal collusion between Trump or any Trump associates and the Russians.
In the days immediately following Comey’s firing, Baker said he spoke with former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, Executive Assistant Director of the FBI’s National Security Branch Carl Ghattas, “probably” former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, and former Assistant Director of the FBI’s counterintelligence division Bill Priestap.
During a meeting in this time frame, Baker said Page and McCabe told him they took Rosenstein’s suggestion that he “wear a wire” to record conversations with President Trump seriously.
“My recollection is that the reason for the taping was to obtain evidence with respect to the president’s state of mind with respect to why he fired Director Comey,” Baker said.
Baker’s attorney did not let him answer whether this was “all about the obstruction of justice issue.”
Barr has stated that Mueller did not reach a conclusion on obstruction of justice one way or the other, and wrote in his summary that he and Rosenstein determined there was insufficient evidence to determine that such a crime has taken place.
Baker recalled McCabe said he was “stunned” and “surprised” that Rosenstein would offer to wear a wire but that he didn’t think Rosenstein was joking. Baker said he took the suggestion seriously too, though he believed it was a “crazy idea.”
Rosenstein has denied that this was a serious suggestion.
Baker also referred to the “25th Amendment conversation” at the meeting on whether to invoke the amendment to remove Trump from office. He recalled Page and McCabe informed him that Rosenstein said, “There were two members of the Cabinet who were willing to go down this road already.” He did not know who the two Cabinet members were.
Baker testified that “everyone” was upset about the firing of Comey. He also said Rosenstein in particular, who authored a memo used by Trump to justify Comey’s firing, “believed that either he made a mistake or was fooled or drawn into it in some way that he didn’t anticipate how it was going to turn out, and that he had extreme regrets about what had happened.”
Rosenstein would be the one to appoint Mueller just days later.
In the new transcripts, Baker also testified that if Nellie Ohr, a Fusion GPS contractor and the wife of Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, was involved with creating evidence that was used in FISA applications to target Trump associates, “Then it seems as though the institution of the Department of Justice should provide that to the FISA Court.”
The Baker transcripts also revealed that the former top FBI lawyer initially believed that Clinton should’ve been prosecuted but that he was eventually “persuaded” otherwise.
The transcripts released Tuesday showed that Baker believed Clinton’s behavior was “alarming” and “appalling,” that he found the texts between former FBI special agent Peter Strzok and Page “quite alarming,” and thought the Trump-Russia investigation was “highly unusual.”
Tuesday’s revelations also included Baker testifying that he’d received Trump-Russia-related information from Perkins Coie lawyer Michael Sussmann and a portion of Christopher Steele’s anti-Trump dossier from Mother Jones journalist and “long-time friend” David Corn, all of which Baker had then passed along to the FBI.
Baker also stated that he had reviewed at least a portion of the FISA application to surveil former Trump campaign associate Carter Page.