Former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe. Picture: REUTERS
Former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe. Picture: REUTERS

Washington  — The former acting director of the FBI has said that President Donald Trump’s firing of his predecessor James Comey set off alarms of a threat against the investigation into Russia meddling in the 2016 US election. It also sparked discussions of invoking the constitution to remove Trump.

In an interview with the CBS investigative programme 60 Minutes, Andrew McCabe said he moved quickly to shore up the Russia investigation after Comey was sacked on May 9 2017, in case Trump then fired him to shut down the probe.

“I think the next day, I met with the team investigating the Russia cases,” McCabe said in an excerpt of the interview released on Thursday.

“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.”

According to 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley, McCabe also confirmed previous reports that senior officials of the FBI and justice department discussed using the US constitution’s 25th amendment to remove Trump.

McCabe, Pelley said, told CBS that “they were counting noses”, to determine how many cabinet secretaries would back such a move.

Those meetings also discussed whether they could have deputy attorney-general Rod Rosenstein wear a secret wire to record his discussions in the White House with Trump, who they feared could possibly have been compromised by Russia.

“This was not perceived to be a joke,” Pelley said, countering Rosenstein’s own previous efforts to downplay the issue.

“McCabe in our interview 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.”

McCabe was interviewed by 60 Minutes in advance of the launch next week of his book, The Threat, recounting his encounters with Trump and his broader career at the FBI.

He was eventually fired in March 2018 for “lack of candour” in an internal investigation into the FBI’s handling of a 2016 probe into Trump’s Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. Trump dismissed the McCabe interview on Thursday on Twitter, referring to his firing.

“Disgraced FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe pretends to be a ‘poor little Angel’ when in fact he was a big part of the Crooked Hillary Scandal & the Russia Hoax — a puppet for Leakin’ James Comey,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

AFP