When Donald Trump fired then-FBI Director James Comey, the bureau chief wasn't in his office. In fact, he wasn't even in the city: Comey was in California, preparing to speak at an event intended to help recruit future FBI officials. This led, among other things, to the appointment of a special counsel to the further investigate the Russia scandal.
But in the immediate aftermath of the president's decision, it also led to an odd logistical dynamic: Comey had flown to Los Angeles on a government-funded plane. Trump, watching television coverage at the time, was reportedly enraged by the idea of Comey returning home the same way.
As NBC News reported yesterday, the result was an uncomfortable conversation between Trump and Andrew McCabe -- the then-acting director of the FBI -- that we're just learning about now.
McCabe told the president he hadn't been asked to authorize Comey's flight, but if anyone had asked, he would have approved it, three people familiar with the call recounted to NBC News.The president was silent for a moment and then turned on McCabe, suggesting he ask his wife how it feels to be a loser -- an apparent reference to a failed campaign for state office in Virginia that McCabe's wife made in 2015.McCabe replied, "OK, sir." Trump then hung up the phone.
A White House official denied the account, though (a) this White House denies all sorts of things that are true; and (b) the story certainly sounds like the sort of thing Trump would say and do.
After all, we already know Trump is the kind of person who goes after the spouses of people he's unhappy with.
Soon after the incident, the president summoned McCabe to the White House for a "get-to-know-you" meeting in which he asked McCabe to temporarily lead the FBI while the search for a permanent director continued. It was at this meeting that Trump asked the FBI official whom he voted for in the 2016 election -- before complaining some more about McCabe's wife. (McCabe, in case you're curious, voted in a Republican primary in 2016, but did not vote in the presidential election.)
Yesterday, after serving for months as a Trump punching bag, McCabe stepped down from his post at the FBI.
As for the comment in which Trump reportedly told McCabe his wife is a loser, let's note for context that McCabe's wife lost her race in Virginia after receiving 47.5% of the vote.
Donald Trump, in his race, received 46.1% of the vote.