Andrew McCabe: Trump's Own Words Prompted Probe, He Spoke About The FBI "In A Derogatory Way"

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CBS NEWS: Former Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe tells 60 Minutes about taking over for James Comey, starting investigations of President Trump, interactions with the president and his own firing.

"Former Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe is about to describe behind-the-scenes chaos in 2017, after President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. In the days that followed, McCabe says that law enforcement officials discussed whether to secretly record a conversation with the president and whether Mr. Trump could be removed from office through invoking the 25th Amendment. McCabe is the first person present in those meetings to describe them publicly," CBS News reported.

"McCabe says that the basis for both investigations was in Mr. Trump's own statements," '60 Minutes' correspondent Scott Pelley said to McCabe.





"There were a number of things that caused us to believe that we had adequate predication or adequate reason and facts, to open the investigation," McCabe said. "The president had been speaking in a derogatory way about our investigative efforts for weeks, describing it as a witch hunt publicly undermining the effort of the investigation. The president had gone to Jim Comey and specifically asked him to discontinue the investigation of Mike Flynn which was a part of our Russia case. The president, then, fired the director."

WATCH: ANDREW MCCABE'S FULL '60 MINUTES' INTERVIEW

"The FBI had reason to investigate that. Right, to investigate the existence of an investigation doesn't mean someone is guilty. I would say, Scott, if we failed to open an investigation under those circumstances, we wouldn't be doing our jobs," McCabe pleaded.

McCabe on how Trump's "derogatory" statements about the Russia investigation spurred the criminal investigation into the president:

Scott Pelley, CBS '60 MINUTES' CORRESPONDENT: McCabe says that the basis for both investigations was in Mr. Trump's own statements. First, Mr. Trump had asked FBI Director Comey to drop the investigation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who has since pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts. Then, to justify firing Comey, Mr. Trump asked his deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, to write a memo listing the reasons Comey had to go. And according to McCabe, Mr. Trump made a request for that memo that came as a surprise.

Andrew McCabe: Rod was concerned by his interactions with the president, who seemed to be very focused on firing the director and saying things like, "Make sure you put Russia in your memo." That concerned Rod in the same way that it concerned me and the FBI investigators on the Russia case.

If Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein listed the Russia investigation in his memo to the White House, it could look like he was obstructing the Russia probe by suggesting Comey's firing. And by implication, it would give the president cover.

Scott Pelley: He didn't wanna put Russia in his memo.

Andrew McCabe: He did not. He explained to the president that he did not need Russia in his memo. And the president responded, "I understand that, I am asking you to put Russia in the memo anyway."

When the memo justifying Comey's firing was made public, Russia was not in it. But, Mr. Trump made the connection anyway, telling NBC, then, Russian diplomats that the Russian investigation was among the reasons he fired Comey.

Andrew McCabe: There were a number of things that caused us to believe that we had adequate predication or adequate reason and facts, to open the investigation. The president had been speaking in a derogatory way about our investigative efforts for weeks, describing it as a witch hunt…

President Trump on Feb. 16, 2017: Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia. Haven't made a phone call to Russia in years.

Andrew McCabe: ...publicly undermining the effort of the investigation. The president had gone to Jim Comey and specifically asked him to discontinue the investigation of Mike Flynn which was a part of our Russia case. The president, then, fired the director. In the firing of the director, the president specifically asked Rod Rosenstein to write the memo justifying the firing and told Rod to include Russia in the memo. Rod, of course, did not do that. That was on the president's mind. Then, the president made those public comments that you've referenced both on NBC and to the Russians which was captured in the Oval Office. Put together, these circumstances were articulable facts that indicated that a crime may have been committed. The president may have been engaged in obstruction of justice in the firing of Jim Comey.

Scott Pelley: What was it specifically that caused you to launch the counterintelligence investigation?

Andrew McCabe: It's many of those same concerns that cause us to be concerned about a national security threat. And the idea is, if the president committed obstruction of justice, fired the director of the of the FBI to negatively impact or to shut down our investigation of Russia's malign activity and possibly in support of his campaign, as a counterintelligence investigator you have to ask yourself, "Why would a president of the United States do that?" So all those same sorts of facts cause us to wonder is there an inappropriate relationship, a connection between this president and our most fearsome enemy, the government of Russia?

Scott Pelley: Are you saying that the president is in league with the Russians?

Andrew McCabe: I'm saying that the FBI had reason to investigate that. Right, to investigate the existence of an investigation doesn't mean someone is guilty. I would say, Scott, if we failed to open an investigation under those circumstances, we wouldn't be doing our jobs.

Scott Pelley: When you decided to launch these two investigations, was the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, onboard with that.

Andrew McCabe: Absolutely.


Full transcript:

Andrew McCabe, FMR. ACTING FBI DIRECTOR: I'd never been to a meeting in the Oval Office before. I'm a career FBI agent-government worker.

Scott Pelley, CBS NEWS '60 MINUTES' CORRESPONDENT: Oval Office was above your pay grade.

Andrew McCabe: It certainly was. And the president immediately went off on a almost a gleeful description of what had happened with the firing of Jim Comey. And then he went on to state that people in the FBI were — were thrilled about this, that people really disliked Jim Comey and that they were very happy about this and that it was, it was a great thing.

Scott Pelley: He was telling you what the reaction inside the FBI was?

Andrew McCabe: He was. It was very different than the reaction I had seen immediately before I came to the White House.

Scott Pelley: Which was what?

Andrew McCabe: People were shocked. We had lost our leader, a leader who was respected and liked by the vast majority of FBI employees. People were very sad. But anyway, that night in the Oval Office what I was hearing from the president was, not reality. It was the version of the events that I quickly realized he wished me to adopt. As he went on talking about how happy people in the FBI were, he said to me, "I heard that you were part of the resistance."

Scott Pelley: What did he mean by that?

Andrew McCabe: Well I didn't know. And so I asked him. And he said, "I heard that you were one of the people that did not support Jim Comey. You didn't agree with him and the decisions that he'd made in the Clinton case. And is that true?" And I said, "No sir. That's not true. I worked very closely with Jim Comey. I was a part of that team and a part of those decisions."

Scott Pelley: You had the sense you'd given him the wrong answer.

Andrew McCabe: I knew I'd given him the wrong answer.

Scott Pelley: You weren't trying to hang onto this job.

Andrew McCabe: I wasn't willing to lie to keep it. I didn't know when I'd be out of the job. I thought it would probably be pretty soon. And so I just put my head down and got to work trying to stabilize the people around me and do the things that I felt we needed to do with the Russia investigation, getting cases opened and getting a special counsel appointed.

After Comey was fired, McCabe says he ordered two investigations of the president himself. They asked two questions. One, did Mr. Trump fire Comey to impede the investigation into whether Russia interfered with the election. And two, if so, was Mr. Trump acting on behalf of the Russian government.

Andrew McCabe: 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. And that was something that troubled me greatly.

Scott Pelley: How long was it after that that you decided to start the obstruction of justice and counterintelligence investigations involving the president?

Andrew McCabe: I think the next day, I 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. 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 or reassigned or fired that the case could not be closed or vanish in the night without a trace.

Scott Pelley: You wanted a documentary record—

Andrew McCabe: That's right—

Scott Pelley: —That those investigations had begun because you feared that they would be made to go away.

Andrew McCabe: That's exactly right.

McCabe says that the basis for both investigations was in Mr. Trump's own statements. First, Mr. Trump had asked FBI Director Comey to drop the investigation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who has since pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts. Then, to justify firing Comey, Mr. Trump asked his deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, to write a memo listing the reasons Comey had to go. And according to McCabe, Mr. Trump made a request for that memo that came as a surprise.

Andrew McCabe: Rod was concerned by his interactions with the president, who seemed to be very focused on firing the director and saying things like, "Make sure you put Russia in your memo." That concerned Rod in the same way that it concerned me and the FBI investigators on the Russia case.

If Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein listed the Russia investigation in his memo to the White House, it could look like he was obstructing the Russia probe by suggesting Comey's firing. And by implication, it would give the president cover.

Scott Pelley: He didn't wanna put Russia in his memo.

Andrew McCabe: He did not. He explained to the president that he did not need Russia in his memo. And the president responded, "I understand that, I am asking you to put Russia in the memo anyway."

When the memo justifying Comey's firing was made public, Russia was not in it. But, Mr. Trump made the connection anyway, telling NBC, then, Russian diplomats that the Russian investigation was among the reasons he fired Comey.

Andrew McCabe: There were a number of things that caused us to believe that we had adequate predication or adequate reason and facts, to open the investigation. The president had been speaking in a derogatory way about our investigative efforts for weeks, describing it as a witch hunt…

President Trump on Feb. 16, 2017: Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia. Haven't made a phone call to Russia in years.

Andrew McCabe: ...publicly undermining the effort of the investigation. The president had gone to Jim Comey and specifically asked him to discontinue the investigation of Mike Flynn which was a part of our Russia case. The president, then, fired the director. In the firing of the director, the president specifically asked Rod Rosenstein to write the memo justifying the firing and told Rod to include Russia in the memo. Rod, of course, did not do that. That was on the president's mind. Then, the president made those public comments that you've referenced both on NBC and to the Russians which was captured in the Oval Office. Put together, these circumstances were articulable facts that indicated that a crime may have been committed. The president may have been engaged in obstruction of justice in the firing of Jim Comey.

Scott Pelley: What was it specifically that caused you to launch the counterintelligence investigation?

Andrew McCabe: It's many of those same concerns that cause us to be concerned about a national security threat. And the idea is, if the president committed obstruction of justice, fired the director of the of the FBI to negatively impact or to shut down our investigation of Russia's malign activity and possibly in support of his campaign, as a counterintelligence investigator you have to ask yourself, "Why would a president of the United States do that?" So all those same sorts of facts cause us to wonder is there an inappropriate relationship, a connection between this president and our most fearsome enemy, the government of Russia?

Scott Pelley: Are you saying that the president is in league with the Russians?

Andrew McCabe: I'm saying that the FBI had reason to investigate that. Right, to investigate the existence of an investigation doesn't mean someone is guilty. I would say, Scott, if we failed to open an investigation under those circumstances, we wouldn't be doing our jobs.

Scott Pelley: When you decided to launch these two investigations, was the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, onboard with that.

Andrew McCabe: Absolutely.

Rod Rosenstein has spent 28 years at the Department of Justice. A Republican, he was appointed by President Trump as deputy attorney general, number two at the department. Mr. Trump's firing of James Comey on May 9, 2017 set off a week of crisis meetings between Rosenstein, who was in charge of the Russia investigation and acting FBI director Andrew McCabe.

Andrew McCabe: I can't describe to you accurately enough the pressure and the chaos that Rod and I were trying to operate under at that time. It was incredibly turbulent, incredibly stressful. And it was clear to me that that stress was— was impacting the deputy attorney general. We talked about why the president had insisted on firing the director and whether or not he was thinking about the Russia investigation and did that impact his decision. And in the context of that conversation, the deputy attorney general offered to wear a wire into the White House. He 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." Now, he was not joking. He was absolutely serious. 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.

Scott Pelley: The point of Rosenstein wearing the wire into a meeting with the president was what? What did he hope to obtain?

Andrew McCabe: I can't characterize what Rod was thinking or what he was hoping at that moment. But the reason you would have someone wear a concealed recording device would be to collect evidence and in this case, what was the true nature of the president's motivation in calling for the firing of Jim Comey?

Scott Pelley: The general counsel of the FBI and the leadership team you spoke with said what about this idea?

Andrew McCabe: I think the general counsel had a heart attack. And when he got up off the floor, he said, "I, I, that's a bridge too far. We're not there yet."

Scott Pelley: That it wasn't necessary at that point in the investigation to escalate it to that level.

Andrew McCabe: That's correct.

But McCabe says Rosenstein raised another idea. The 25th Amendment to the constitution allows the vice president and a majority of the cabinet to remove the president.

Andrew McCabe: Discussion of the 25th Amendment was simply, Rod raised the issue and discussed it with me in the context of thinking about how many other cabinet officials might support such an effort. I didn't have much to contribute, to be perfectly honest, in that— conversation. So I listened to what he had to say. 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. So 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.

Scott Pelley: What seemed to be coursing through the mind of the deputy attorney general was getting rid of the president of the United States

Andrew McCabe: Well—

Pelley: One way or another.

Andrew McCabe: I can't confirm that. But what I can say is the deputy attorney general was definitely very concerned about the president, about his capacity, and about his intent at that point in time.

Scott Pelley: How did he bring up the idea of the 25th amendment to you?

Andrew McCabe: Honestly, I don't remember. He, it was just another kinda topic that he jumped to in the midst of a wide-ranging conversation.

Scott Pelley: Seriously? (LAUGH) Just—

Andrew McCabe: Yeah—

Scott Pelley: —another topic

Andrew McCabe: Yeah.

Scott Pelley: Did you counsel him on that?

Andrew McCabe: I didn't. I mean, he was discussing other cabinet members and whether or not people would support such an idea, whether or not other cabinet members would, shared, his belief that the president was — was really concerning, was concerning Rod at that time.

Scott Pelley: Rosenstein was actually openly talking about whether there was a majority of the cabinet who would vote to remove the president.

Andrew McCabe: That's correct. Counting votes or possible votes.

Scott Pelley: Did he assign specific votes to specific people?

Andrew McCabe: No, not that I recall.

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