WASHINGTON – The New York Times reported on Friday that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had talked about using the 25th Amendment to remove President Donald Trump last year after the White House was in disarray after the firing of FBI Director James Comey.
According to the report, which Rosenstein strongly denied Friday, the deputy attorney general also suggested wearing a wire during encounters with the president while proposing the recruitment of other Trump administration officials to support the president's removal.
The 25th Amendment, ratified in 1967, created a legal mechanism for designating a head of state when the president is disabled or dead.
Who is Rod Rosenstein? Here's a quick look at his career.
How did he move into the spotlight?
The deputy attorney general first emerged as a central figure in the tumultuous first months of the Trump administration when the White House disclosed that Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions had recommended the May dismissal of Comey.
Later that month, Rosenstein announced the appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller to oversee the continuing inquiry into Russia's interference in the 2016 election, igniting Trump's bitter campaign against his own Justice Department.
What's his role in the Russia probe?
Rosenstein oversees Mueller's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Rosenstein is in charge because Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation for having a conflict of interest after serving as an adviser to the Trump campaign.
Freedom Caucus tried to impeach him
Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus filed articles of impeachment against Rosenstein in July for what they alleged is his failure to hand over documents to Congress about the Russia investigation. The move did not advance.
The 11 conservatives who introduced the articles of impeachment were a small faction of the 236-member GOP majority. Even if they could get the House to impeach Rosenstein, the closely divided Senate is unlikely to follow suit.
"These articles of impeachment against Rod Rosenstein were filed in bad faith and show extraordinary lengths to which House Republicans will go to protect Trump," tweeted Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, at the time. "History will record these Members as willing accomplices in the most serious threat to the rule of law in a generation."
What might happen to any move to impeach Rosenstein in the wake of the Times report is unknown.
'Not an unguided missile'
Despite unrelenting criticism from the White House on the course of the investigation into Russia's election interference, Rosenstein has offered unqualified support for Mueller.
"The special counsel is not an unguided missile," Rosenstein said in an exclusive interview with USA TODAY in March. "I don't believe there is any justification at this point for terminating the special counsel."
Rosenstein said oversight of Mueller's inquiry requires only "a fraction" of his daily work. He estimated that less than 5 percent of his week is related to briefings or other matters involving Mueller's investigation.
He dismissed the near-constant and pointed criticism aimed at the Justice Department from the White House and from conservative groups.
"I believe much of the criticism will fall by the wayside when people reflect on this era and the Department of Justice," said Rosenstein, who did not refer to Trump directly. "I'm very confident that when the history of this era is written, it will reflect that the department was operated with integrity."
Longtime DOJ career
Rosenstein, the country's 37th deputy U.S. attorney general, graduated from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor's degree in economics in 1986, according to his official biography on the Department of Justice website.
He joined the Department of Justice in 1990 after getting a juris doctorate degree with honors from Harvard Law School, where he was editor of the law review. He also clerked for Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, who was forced to withdraw as Ronald Reagan's nominee for the Supreme Court because of smoking marijuana.
Rosenstein prosecuted public corruption cases before becoming an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Maryland, where he served until January 2017, when he was tapped by Trump to move up.
More: Eight things to know about the 25th Amendment
More: Rod Rosenstein, deputy attorney general, says Robert Mueller is 'not an unguided missile'
Contributing: Kevin Johnson, Maureen Groppe, David Jackson and Erin Kelly