McCabe firing roils Washington
The abrupt ouster of former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe ignited a political firestorm in Washington on Saturday.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he fired McCabe on Friday, alleging that the FBI’s former No. 2 official had misled congressional investigators and leaked information to the press.
But McCabe quickly pushed back on those claims. He said his firing, which came just two days before he was expected to retire, was a political maneuver intended to undermine the special counsel investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Trump touted McCabe’s firing on Saturday as a “great day for democracy,” and suggested that the former FBI deputy director was corrupt and dishonest. He also cast the decision as a victory for the “men and women of the FBI.”
“Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI – A great day for Democracy,” Trump tweeted. “Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choirboy. He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!”
Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI – A great day for Democracy. Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choirboy. He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 17, 2018
But McCabe’s ouster prompted an outcry from Democrats, who pointed to the episode as the latest in what they say are Trump’s efforts to discredit the FBI and undercut federal law enforcement.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called on Saturday for a hearing on the Trump administration’s attacks on the FBI and Justice Department.
“I fear the damage being done to the FBI, and to our nation’s institutions more broadly, will far outlast any current crises unless we take decisive, bipartisan action,” he wrote in a letter to the committee’s chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).
Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) accused Trump on Friday of trying to “vandalize our democracy,” calling the move to dismiss McCabe just days before his retirement a “disgrace.”
“McCabe’s dismissal in the dead of night is a disgrace to this country and our law enforcement community. Every day they vandalize our democracy and harm our institutions, and @HouseGOP does nothing,” he tweeted.
McCabe’s dismissal in the dead of night is a disgrace to this country and our law enforcement community. Every day they vandalize our democracy and harm our institutions, and @HouseGOP does nothing. https://t.co/x52aClSvQo
— Bill Pascrell, Jr. (@BillPascrell) March 16, 2018
McCabe’s firing also drew condemnation from former officials, most notably ousted FBI Director James Comey, who has come under particular criticism from Trump.
In a tweet on Saturday, Comey made no mention of McCabe, but said that he would soon tell the story of his firing, and that the American people would determine “who is honorable and who is not.”
“Mr. President, the American people will hear my story very soon,” he tweeted. “And they can judge for themselves who is honorable and who is not.”
Mr. President, the American people will hear my story very soon. And they can judge for themselves who is honorable and who is not.
— James Comey (@Comey) March 17, 2018
Comey was abruptly fired in May for what Sessions and his deputy Rod Rosenstein said was his mishandling of the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of State. But Trump later suggested that it was the probe into Russian election meddling that prompted him to fire the former FBI director.
Since then, memos have surfaced detailing Comey’s interactions with Trump. Those memos include allegations that Trump once asked the former FBI director for a loyalty pledge, and later pressed him to drop his agency’s investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
McCabe reportedly authored his own memos detailing his interactions with Trump. Axios reported Saturday that he had turned those documents over to special counsel Robert Mueller’s team of investigators, and that they corroborate Comey’s claims about his meetings with Trump.
Former CIA Director John Brennan also blasted Trump after McCabe’s firing, warning the president that he will go down “as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history.”
“When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America…America will triumph over you,” Brennan wrote on Twitter.
When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America…America will triumph over you. https://t.co/uKppoDbduj
— John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) March 17, 2018
Adding to the firestorm surrounding Trump on Saturday was a statement issued by John Dowd, a lawyer for the president, who called for Rosenstein to shut down Mueller’s investigation. Dowd initially told the Daily Beast that the statement was issued on Trump’s behalf, though he later reversed that claim, saying it was issued in a personal capacity.
Still, the mere prospect of the Trump administration ending Mueller’s probe drew scrutiny. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) warned of “severe consequences” if the investigation was shut down.
“The president, the administration, and his legal team must not take any steps to curtail, interfere with, or end the special counsel’s investigation or there will be severe consequences from both Democrats and Republicans,” Schumer said.
Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, noted that “it’s impossible to evaluate the merits” of McCabe’s firing since the Justice Department’s inspector general has not released the report that triggered the disciplinary process that resulted in the recommendation that he be fired.
However, he tweeted, “That it comes after the President urged the [Justice Department] to deprive McCabe of his pension, and after his testimony, gives the action an odious taint.”
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