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Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein made the suggestions in the spring of 2017 after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, the newspaper said, citing its sources as people who were briefed on the events themselves or on memos written by FBI officials including Andrew McCabe, who became acting director when Comey was dismissed. And indeed, the Justice Department issued a statement from an anonymous official who said that Rosenstein made his proposal to record the president "sarcastically".

The Times said he discussed recruiting Cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Mr. Trump from office for being unfit.

Trump has publicly lashed out at both Rosenstein and Sessions ever since, blaming them for fueling what he called a "witch hunt" bent on undermining his administration.

McCabe has fiercely disputed the findings of the Justice Department's inspector general, but he is still under criminal investigation by the US Attorney's Office in DC.

McCabe's memos, which were later turned over to special counsel Robert Mueller's office, had remained at the Federal Bureau of Investigation until McCabe was ousted in January and McCabe doesn't know how any reporters might have obtained them, Bromwich said.

Another official at the meeting, then-FBI lawyer Lisa Page, wrote her own memo of the discussion which does not mention any talk of the 25th amendment, according to a second person who was familiar with her account. He said that based on personal interactions with the president, there is no basis for any 25th Amendment action, the constitutional provision allowing for succession when a president is deemed to be incapacitated.

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"McCabe wants to bring Rosenstein down", Perino said. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because of the confidential nature of the conversation.

In a statement Friday, McCabe's attorneys said they did not know how the contents of the memos were shared with reporters.

More anonymous sources quickly let it be known that Rosenstein's comment about wires and taking down Trump was sarcastic and meant as a joke. The statement did not address the content of the memos.

Rosenstein has been a target of Trump's ire since appointing Robert Mueller as a Justice Department special counsel to investigate potential coordination between Russian Federation and the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election. He reportedly assured the meeting participants that this act would not be hard because White House security had previously not bothered to inspect his cell phone while entering the Oval Office.

Rosenstein has been a frequent punching bag for Trump supporters for appointing Special Counsel Robert Mueller in May 2017 to take over a federal probe of suspected Russian meddling in the USA election and potential coordination between Moscow and the Trump campaign. He quickly qualified it by saying, without evidence, that the Times story was "clearly leaked by Trump allies" and that Trump himself had to be aware that firing Rosenstein would "fire up Democrats like nothing else".