Andrew McCabe, fired by the Justice Department on Friday night before he could retire 28 hours later, was many things to the White House. McCabe, for example, was the deputy director the FBI – the first to ever be fired. He was also one of the first officials to scrutinize the connections between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and its Russian benefactors.
But I was especially interested in something McCabe told Politico.
“[A]t some point, this has to be seen in the larger context,” said McCabe, 49, who says he has voted for every Republican presidential nominee until he sat out the 2016 contest entirely. “And I firmly believe that this is an ongoing effort to undermine my credibility because of the work that I did on the Russia case, because of the investigations that I oversaw and impacted that target this administration.”
“They have every reason to believe that I could end up being a significant witness in whatever the special counsel comes up with, and so they are trying to create this counter-narrative that I am not someone who can be believed or trusted,” McCabe added. “And as someone who has been believed and trusted by really good people for 21 years, it’s just infuriating to me.” [emphasis added]
Seeing McCabe as a witness is a detail that may be familiar to regular readers and TRMS viewers. Early on in Trump’s presidency, the president allegedly asked then-FBI Director James Comey to go easy on Michael Flynn, the former White House national security advisor. Comey, recognizing the importance of a president possibly obstructing justice during an ongoing investigation, informed a small group of officials.
Comey, obviously, was part of the small circle, and he was fired as part of the president’s effort to derail the Russia investigation. Then there’s Jim Baker, the former FBI general counsel who’s still with the FBI, but who’s also been ousted from his senior position at the bureau. There’s also Jim Rybicki, a two-time chief of staff to the FBI director, who was pushed out earlier this year.
And there’s Andrew McCabe, who was fired as part of an apparent political vendetta.
Of the six people that we know of who were in the loop with information about Trump’s possible obstruction, four have either been sidelined at the FBI or are out of their jobs altogether.
Or put another way, many of those who can corroborate Comey’s version of events have themselves been targeted.
And as we saw over the weekend, they’re still being targeted. Yesterday morning, the president lashed out again at Jim Comey, accusing him of perjury, and soon after, Trump published a follow-up tweet on McCabe: “Spent very little time with Andrew McCabe, but he never took notes when he was with me. I don’t believe he made memos except to help his own agenda, probably at a later date. Same with lying James Comey. Can we call them Fake Memos?”
This was in reference to reports that McCabe took notes on his interactions with the president – just as Comey did. What’s more, McCabe’s notes have also reportedly been turned over to the special counsel investigators – just as Comey’s notes were.
Trump has no idea what’s in those documents, but he’s already trying to discredit them. (The fact that the president finds it significant that McCabe didn’t write the notes in Trump’s presence is kind of hilarious, and emblematic of the president’s apparent desperation.)
Trump’s anxiety is understandable. For a while, he thought the obstruction question, at least with regards to asking the FBI director to go easy on Flynn, would ultimately be a he-said/he-said: either the president is telling the truth or Comey is. But if McCabe has contemporaneous materials that could help tip the scales, Trump has to expand his universe of law-enforcement personnel whose credibility he needs to attack.
Indeed, I wouldn’t surprised if the president remains on the offensive, attacking McCabe, Comey, and other potential witnesses to alleged crimes, if for no other reason than to frame them as political enemies of the White House who have an incentive to embarrass Trump.
“Here is the reality: I am being singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of James Comey,” McCabe said in a statement on Saturday.
It is those events he witnessed that appear to be causing so much anxiety in the Oval Office.