Comments On Andrew McCabe And The FBI's Coup Plotters

Disgraced ex-FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe has written a book, and of course then he’s out trying to sell it. On Thursday the Atlantic published an excerpt. Tomorrow McCabe is to appear on 60 Minutes in a pre-recorded segment, several snippets of which have become public in advance of the airing.

Plenty of people have already offered up comments. Here are some you might find interesting: Marc Penn at Fox News; Roger Kimball at Spectator USA; Andrew McCarthy at Fox News; Willis Krumholz at the Federalist; Julie Kelly at American Greatness; Byron York at the Washington Examiner.

Not wanting to repeat what’s already been said, I’ll just offer up a few thoughts. Most important, you really have to marvel at the deep state mindset exemplified by this guy — a combination of ignorance, stupidity, arrogance, and, more than anything else, sanctimony. Sanctimony. The total confidence in his own righteousness and holiness, even as he has wholly lost track of — or is completely ignorant of — all the applicable legal and ethical principles, even the very most basic ones.

Let’s look at a couple of quotes from McCabe’s book excerpt in the Atlantic:

The president steps over bright ethical and moral lines wherever he encounters them. Everyone in America saw it when he fired my boss [Comey]. . . .

On Wednesday, May 10, 2017, my first full day on the job as acting director of the FBI, I sat down with senior staff involved in the Russia case—the investigation into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. As the meeting began, my secretary relayed a message that the White House was calling. The president himself was on the line. I had spoken with him the night before, in the Oval Office, when he told me he had fired James Comey. A call like this was highly unusual. Presidents do not, typically, call FBI directors. There should be no direct contact between the president and the director, except for national-security purposes. The reason is simple. Investigations and prosecutions need to be pursued without a hint of suspicion that someone who wields power has put a thumb on the scale. . . . The Russia team was in my office.

Where to start? “Everyone in America saw” that when Trump fired Comey Trump had “step[ped] over [a] bright ethical and moral line.” Something tells me that you didn’t see that as an obvious “ethical and moral” violation by Trump. Certainly, I did not. And I’m a lawyer who specializes in legal ethics! I know all the relevant legal and ethical principles, and I don’t know of a one of them that Trump even potentially violated by firing Comey. As far as I know, the main applicable rule here is that the President has the absolute right to fire the FBI Director, at any time, for any or no reason. That rule follows directly from the first line of Article II of the Constitution, which provides that “the Executive Power” is “vested” in the “President.” So Trump didn’t do anything wrong that I know of by firing Comey; but how about McCabe, acting as Director of the FBI, claiming that the President crosses a “bright ethical and moral line” by exercising his constitutional authority to fire a subordinate officer? McCabe took an oath to “support the Constitution.” How can McCabe not see that it is contrary to his oath of office to oppose the President’s exercise of constitutional authority?

And how about this one: “There should be no direct contact between the president and the [FBI] director, except for national-security purposes. The reason is simple. Investigations and prosecutions need to be pursued without a hint of suspicion that someone who wields power has put a thumb on the scale.” Here McCabe is completely confusing an aspirational discretionary practice intended to protect run-of-the-mill prosecutions with a “bright ethical and moral line.” There is no ethical or moral rule preventing the President from calling the Director of the FBI, and indeed President has the absolute right to call the Director, and to issue orders to him. When the FBI Director says he shouldn’t have to take calls from the President, or obey the President’s orders, is for him to say that he can ignore and overturn the result of the election. No, he can’t. That one is actually an important bright line legal rule, not some aspirational discretionary practice.

Before this, did you somehow have the idea that somebody who had risen to the level of Acting Director of the FBI would actually understand what might be the most basic constitutional and legal principles applicable to his job? Well, now you know. They don’t have a clue. Instead, all they know is the blind rule of partisanship — we help the guys we perceive to be on our team, and obstruct the guys on the other team. Therefore, an elected Republican shall not be allowed to exercise the powers of the office to which he was elected; and we can prevent that exercise, because we are the holy and anointed ones. How do we know that? Hmmm, we haven’t really thought that one through.

Then there is McCabe’s discussion of what he calls “the Russia investigation.” McCabe describes it as “the investigation into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.” Was it actually a real investigation, or just a pretext to come up with some reason to have the President removed from office? McCabe doesn’t address that subject in this piece. Certainly, he gives no reason for us to believe that this investigation was real. But, without offering any reason why this was a real versus pretextual investigation (did you have anything other than the Steele dossier?), McCabe nevertheless makes clear that the single most critical thing to him in his new job was that this particular investigation must continue even if he gets fired:

After Comey’s firing, the core of my concern had to do with what might happen to the Russia case if I were to be removed. I convened a series of meetings about that investigation—including the one interrupted by the call from the president—in which I directed an overall review of every aspect. . . . I wanted to protect the Russia investigation in such a way that whoever came after me could not just make it go away.

So a few thousand dollars of Russian Facebook ads somehow became the total preoccupation of the Acting Director of the FBI? Or was this really about an effort to figure out a way to remove the President from office? Over to the New York Times, which has an article on Friday quoting from a separate McCabe interview, with the headline “McCabe Says Justice Dept. Officials Had Discussions About Pushing Trump Out.”

Andrew G. McCabe, the former deputy F.B.I. director, said in an interview aired on Thursday that top Justice Department officials became so alarmed by President Trump’s decision in May 2017 to fire James B. Comey, the bureau’s director, that they discussed whether to recruit cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Mr. Trump from office.

Yes, it’s not just the FBI, but also the top officials of the Justice Department, who get “alarmed” when the wrong President tries to exercise his clear constitutional authority to fire someone. Rod Rosenstein is one of them, of course. And he’s still there!

Finally, I just want to point out that it was on May 25, 2017 — in the immediate aftermath of the Comey firing (May 10) and the Mueller appointment (May 16) — that I offered up my own hypothesis of the situation: that the whole “Russia!” thing was just a “preposterous . . . cover story to excuse blatantly illegal government spying on [the] Trump campaign.” Nearly two years later, that prognostication is looking rather good. Except the cover story was intended not only to excuse some pre-election spying, but also to justify a post-election attempted coup.

Looks like William Barr has his work cut out for him for the next couple of years. There are plenty of people here who should be going to jail.