Andrew McCabe, the Deputy Director of the FBI, resigned his post today (Jan 29, 2018). He was already set to retire this year, but seems like he rushed his goodbye more than planned. The question is, why?
We’re not sure what the answer is yet, but here are some interesting pieces of info to consider as we’re thinking about it.
- Trump has been publicly going after McCabe for months.
Trump wasn’t happy about the fact that McCabe’s wife ran for state Senate back in 2015 with funding help from the Democratic Party/Democratic PACs. He said in his interview with the New York Times “We have a director of the F.B.I., acting, who received $700,000, whose wife received $700,000 from, essentially, Hillary Clinton.”
After he fired James Comey, Trump met with McCabe in the Oval Office. The Washington Post reported that Trump asked McCabe who he voted for in the 2016 election (an obviously odd question to ask a public servant from an independent agency). He also apparently vented to McCabe about the funding his wife received during his state senate run.
Axios reported last week that Trump had been pressuring AG Jeff Sessions to pressure Christopher Wray to fire Andrew McCabe.
So once again, because it’s kind of a convoluted trail to follow:
Trump pressures -> Jeff Sessions, to pressure -> FBI Director Chris Wray, to fire -> Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
It’s not very hard to believe because of this:
Apparently, Wray refused to fire McCabe and said if he was forced he’d resign.
2. Right-wing outlets and Republicans pile on
It’s not just Trump who has been questioning McCabe’s objectivity here.
McCabe was interviewed back in December by the House Intelligence committee after Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley said he should be fired. Again related to his wife’s state Senate run, Grassley said that McCabe was the source of the “cloud of doubt” that Grassley believes to be “hang[ing] over the FBI’s objectivity.”
Grassley also wrote to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein criticizing McCabe’s involvement in the Flynn investigation. He said he thinks McCabe is biased against Flynn because Flynn supported an FBI agent who made a complaint against McCabe.
Right-wing news outlets have taken up the mantle. The main narrative is that the FBI has essentially become completely corrupt. In December, Sean Hannity (Fox News) had Gregg Jarrett, a legal analyst, on his show to talk about the FBI. He said “The FBI has become America’s secret police… Secret surveillance, wiretapping, intimidation, harassment, and threats. It’s like the old KGB that comes for you in the dark of the night, banging through your door.”
Trump has fueled that fire:
Now, as the Intercept notes, this isn’t a completely crazy concept.
Right-wing media and politicians aren’t entirely wrong about the FBI. It is a secret police that bangs down people’s doors, follows Americans, intercepts digital communications, digs through trash, and harasses and threatens potential informants or targets of criminal investigations. In fact, civil rights activists and left-wing groups have been complaining about this for more than 50 years. And since the 9/11 attacks, Muslims in the United States have been subjected to an unprecedented level of intrusive surveillance. A common joke in mosques around the country: “Whenever I pray on Friday, I just assume the man next to me is an FBI informant.”
But there is no evidence that the Mueller investigation has been anything but by-the-book. So the sudden anti-FBI hysteria from the right is a little strange…
3. Now, the facts
So, did McCabe have a conflict of interest because of his wife? Is he biased? Let’s check it out.
One of my favorite Twitter accounts, Pwn All The Things, had a great thread on this. He obtained emails through a FOIA request that shed some light here.
So let’s look at what happened after Andrew McCabe’s wife Jill decided back in 2015 to run for office. He registered the conflict of interest with the Office of Integrity and Compliance. The FBI identifies investigations that McCabe should recuse himself from, and he is recused from them.
He wasn’t recused from the Clinton investigation, but that’s because the Clinton investigation had not begun yet.
After Jill McCabe loses the election, Andrew McCabe gets promoted to FBI Deputy Director. So it is Feb. 1, 2016 at this point. The Clinton investigation, which is 7 months in, now reports to him. But there’s no conflict at this point. His wife had already lost the election, and thus the conflict was resolved on Nov. 3 2015.
Then this story breaks:
Clinton Ally Aided Campaign of FBI Official's Wife
The political organization of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat with longstanding ties to Bill and Hillary…
And he gets this email from someone at the FBI’s office that handles conflicts of interest:
4. Oh, one more thing.
Before James Comey was fired last year by Donald Trump, he had a conversation with Trump in the Oval Office. In that conversation, Comey says, Trump asked him to show him loyalty. He also strongly nudged him to drop the investigation on Michael Flynn. The Mueller Investigation has been digging into this because there is a possibility that Trump obstructed justice.
Afterward that meeting in the Oval, Comey told three close colleagues at the FBI about the conversation. McCabe was one of them.
So fast forward to last December, McCabe testified before the House Intelligence Committee in December 2017 that Comey told him about the conversation soon after it happened. That suggests he could corroborate Comey’s account.