Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe once argued that the other should cut ties with special counsel Robert Mueller's federal Russia investigation, according to a report.
The confrontation occurred in May 2017, shortly after President Trump dismissed fired FBI Director James Comey and McCabe was promoted as temporary head of the bureau, the Washington Post reported Wednesday evening.
Rosenstein suggested McCabe step aside after a photo of him wearing a T-shirt supporting his wife's campaign as a Democratic candidate for a Virginia Senate seat in 2015 resurfaced, one person familiar with the conversation told the newspaper. The image was criticized for creating a perception of bias, particularly because his wife had received funding from a Hillary Clinton ally.
Another person told the Post that Rosenstein instead cited McCabe's open frustration with Comey's exit, which Rosenstein helped Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions engineer.
Rosenstein wrote the memo used to rationalize Comey's abrupt termination, mentioning his leadership of the FBI's probe into Clinton's handling of sensitive information via her personal email server. Comey's departure is reportedly of interest to Mueller in case there is evidence justice was obstructed given the bureau was also looking into potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
While the conversation did not result in either Rosenstein or McCabe recusing themselves from the investigation, it came a couple of days after Rosenstein reportedly suggested wearing a wire to surreptitiously record Trump if Cabinet officials wanted to remove him from office using the 25th Amendment. The New York Times reported the story based on McCabe's memo of the discussion.
[Related: Top FBI lawyer: We took Rosenstein talk of bugging the president very seriously]
McCabe was pushed out of the FBI in March following the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General reporting "allegations of misconduct" by him related to an “unauthorized leak" to the media. McCabe, who has disputed the IG report, is now the subject of a grand jury inquiry.