Panetta on Trump: 'We have been in a constitutional crisis'

Points to 'erratic behavior by this President'

By PAOLA CHAVEZ, CNN
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Leon Panetta

(CNN) - Former CIA Director Leon Panetta on Friday said the U.S. has been "in a constitutional crisis" under Donald Trump's presidency.

Panetta, who also served as chief of staff for President Bill Clinton and secretary of defense in the Obama administration, had pointed to several recent actions by Trump that he considered erratic when he was asked by CNN's Wolf Blitzer on "The Situation Room" if the U.S. was headed toward a constitutional crisis.

"I frankly think that we have been in a constitutional crisis for a period of time," Panetta replied.

Panetta said Trump's decision to back away from his earlier demand for the "immediate declassification" of various documents and text messages related to the Russia investigation raises concerns.

"I see it as additional evidence of the kind of erratic behavior by this President," Panetta said, adding, "He's basically walking that decision backwards, and it creates the impression, very frankly, that the President doesn't really take the time to understand the decisions that he makes."

Trump sent two tweets on Friday stating that the Justice Department inspector general has been asked to review the documents on an expedited basis, while saying he still could ultimately decide to declassify the materials.

Regarding the bombshell revelation Friday afternoon from The New York Times that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had discussed wearing a "wire" to record conversations with Trump and recruiting Cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove him from office, Panetta said it was "not a new story."

"The problem is that this President has been extremely critical of our law enforcement authorities," Panetta said. Trump has frequently railed against Rosenstein -- who appointed special counsel Robert Mueller to lead the Russia investigation -- and against Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his decision to recuse himself from the investigation.

Rosenstein denied the New York Times report Friday in two separate statements.

Asked if Trump should fire Rosenstein, Panetta cautioned, "He's got to think very carefully about the implications of taking actions here."

Copyright 2018 by CNN NewSource. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.