Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinWashington still needs more transparency House Judiciary to probe DOJ's seizure of data from lawmakers, journalists The Hill's Morning Report - Biden-Putin meeting to dominate the week MORE is to testify privately today before leaders of the House Judiciary and the Oversight and Government Reform committees, to answer questions about statements attributed to him calling for secretly recording President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump defends indicted GOP congressman House to vote Thursday on holding Bannon in contempt Youngkin calls for investigation into Loudoun County School Board amid sexual assault allegations MORE.
Before he is saber-poked to the end of a plank for what congressional Republicans suspect are mutinous machinations, perhaps a closer look at his accuser is in order.
The New York Times started all this with its Sept. 21 article suggesting Rosenstein furthered a scheme to remove the president via the 25th Amendment by wiring up himself and FBI executives to surreptitiously record conversations with the president, in hopes of capturing comments reflecting a lack of fitness that his cabinet would not be able to resist.
The Times relied on anonymous sources characterized as “people (who) were briefed on the events themselves or on memos written by F.B.I. officials, including Andrew G. McCabe.” Turns out former FBI General Counsel James Baker, whom then-acting FBI director McCabe immediately briefed, fits that source description nicely.
Both Baker and McCabe were placed in their positions by fired FBI director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyTrump defends indicted GOP congressman Andrew McCabe's settlement with the Department of Justice is a signal to John Durham Giuliani told investigators it was OK to 'throw a fake' during campaign MORE and can be considered Comey loyalists. McCabe said it was the greatest honor and privilege of his life to work with Comey. And why not? According to FBI executives, Comey personally fast-tracked McCabe’s career into the deputy director position. McCabe was not happy that the president fired his boss and that Rosenstein provided the ammo.
Comey, who has urged America to vote Democrat, apparently liked what he saw in McCabe, who was overseeing the Clinton email investigation in the Washington Field Office, even though his wife, a Democratic candidate for Virginia Senate, had accepted over $1 million bundled together by longtime Clinton loyalist Terry McAuliffe for her campaign just two weeks prior to the 2015 election that she lost.
McCabe apparently couldn’t imagine why anyone might see a possible conflict and so did not recuse himself from the Clinton and other politically fraught investigations. Instead, he doubled down with unprecedented actions. Once installed as deputy director, he pulled the Clinton email investigation out of the field office and directly into his office, using headquarters execs such as former agent Peter Strzok to aggressively wind down the investigation. He then personally opened three other politically-charged FBI investigations. (For the record, FBI deputy directors don’t open cases and run them out of their offices. The Department of Justice (DOJ) inspector general since has criticized McCabe for actions “inconsistent with typical investigative strategy.”)
The first, and most famous, is the Russia collusion investigation that McCabe initiated based on Democratic Party opposition research. Also for the record, political research does not pass muster as justification, under DOJ guidelines, for launching an FBI investigation.
Comey revealed the existence of the investigation during his congressional testimony on March 20, 2017, nobly declaring that America deserved to know, just this once, about an open FBI case — but his real reason for the disclosure was fairly transparent. He thought it would be an insurance policy against his removal by the president. Less than two months later, Comey was fired. He didn’t check his windage on that shot.
The second case personally initiated by McCabe, according to an ABC News report last March, was a criminal investigation against Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump criticizes Justice for restoring McCabe's benefits McCabe wins back full FBI pension after being fired under Trump Overnight Hillicon Valley — Apple issues security update against spyware vulnerability MORE for lack of candor in congressional testimony about his interactions with Russians. McCabe opened the case based on the opinions of two Democratic senators. If true, this is highly shaky predication to unleash an FBI investigation. Even the least experienced squad supervisor in the field wouldn’t try it.
Ironically, and predictably, the case appears to have gone nowhere and, a year later, Sessions himself fired McCabe for his own lack of candor under oath — known outside the Beltway as “lying.”
The third case, noted deep in a recent Washington Post article, asserts that McCabe, while Comey’s chair was still warm after his dismissal, opened a criminal investigation against the president for obstruction of justice. If true, stunning doesn’t begin to describe such a move.
First of all, an obstruction of justice investigation involving the president is traditionally treated as the purview of Congress and an article of impeachment, not an FBI investigation.
Second, when the FBI investigates obstruction of justice, it is for things such as bribing or threatening witnesses, or destroying, tampering with or withholding evidence — not for the firing of a man with whom it was your greatest honor in life to work.
Third, it has been fairly well established that the investigation the president ostensibly obstructed also was initiated and run by McCabe, who was uncomfortably associated with Democratic Party funding and who based the case opening on Democratic Party research.
Fourth, obstruction of justice cases are normally applied against criminal investigations. The Russian “collusion” case was described as an intelligence investigation. Intelligence cases don’t seek justice; they seek intelligence. There’s little justice process, if any, to obstruct while it remains an intelligence investigation.
And so, this is the same Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeAndrew McCabe's settlement with the Department of Justice is a signal to John Durham Trump criticizes Justice for restoring McCabe's benefits The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - Jan. 6 panel flexes its muscle MORE who sat in a meeting with Rod Rosenstein, still smarting just a week after James Comey’s firing, and filled a memo with spectacular assertions against the man he blamed for getting his professional hero canned.
According to the Times article, McCabe mused that Rosenstein made his suggestions to secretly record the president because Rosenstein was upset that the president had used the memo that Rosenstein had crafted justifying a dismissal of Comey — to actually dismiss Comey. That doesn’t exactly ring true in Normaltown, USA.
Congressional oversight has some work to do here. Even a sarcastic and foolish comment about “wiring up” made by Rosenstein, to which he admits, should be examined in testimony and exposed to questioning. But further sensational assertions documented in a memo by McCabe must be evaluated within the context of the sad wake he left in the FBI.
Never has another deputy director (and I worked directly for two and knew several) personally initiated such politically-charged cases and then run the investigations out of his office. And certainly there has been no other deputy director so tied in perception, if not reality, to one particular political party as McCabe has been.
Congress must continue its oversight responsibilities and determine, once and for all, if the investigations initiated by McCabe met the thresholds required by DOJ guidelines. It is for everyone’s protection.
Democrats should join Republicans in a bipartisan search for truth. While political instinct might tempt the Democrats to downplay this issue, there is a higher principle involved.
A fiercely independent, impartial FBI is vital to the health of the nation and both political parties. The appearance now is that the fired director and deputy director carelessly and callously manipulated the authorities of the FBI in favor of one political party over another. Congress must establish the truth as nearly as possible to ensure that this never happens again.
Do this first, and there’s a better chance to reveal the true mutineers.
Kevin R. Brock, former assistant director of intelligence for the FBI, was an FBI special agent for 24 years and principal deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). He is a founder and principal of NewStreet Global Solutions, which consults with private companies and public-safety agencies on strategic mission technologies.