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Saturday, March 17, 2018

He's getting stronger not weaker

by digby

It is certainly true that we don't know all the facts underlying the firing of Andrew McCabe. Maybe he was leaking damaging information to the press about Hillary Clinton and/or Donald Trump and then blatantly lied about it. From what we understand his crimes so far, they are much more vague than that but we'll have to wait and see.

However, all these pundits on TV who are insisting that there's nothing political about this are being ridiculous. Of course it's political. And we know this because the firing was rushed through in order to deny him his pension, which is highly unusual and obviously done for punitive reasons.

Lawfare spells this part of the story out:

There are, however, at least two features of the action against McCabe that warrant consternation, even if McCabe himself behaved badly enough to justify the sanction. The first is the timing, which is hard to understand. The only factor we can fathom that might justify it is the notion that if McCabe in fact had acted very badly, the window to punish him and thus make an important statement to the bureau workforce was closing.

But we are unaware of prior cases in which authorities rushed through the merits against a long-serving official in a naked and transparent effort to beat the clock of his retirement. Michael Bromwich, a former Justice Department inspector general who is representing McCabe, described the process as follows:

The investigation described in the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report was cleaved off from the larger investigation of which it was a part, its completion expedited, and the disciplinary process completed in a little over a week. Mr. McCabe and his counsel were given limited access to a draft of the OIG report late last month, did not see the final report and the evidence on which it is based until a week ago, and were receiving relevant exculpatory evidence as recently as two days ago. We were given only four days to review a voluminous amount of relevant evidence, prepare a response, and make presentations to the Office of the Deputy Attorney General. With so much at stake, this process has fallen far short of what Mr. McCabe deserved.
Even allowing for a certain degree of lawyerly hyperbole in this account, the process described here seems highly irregular. McCabe, in his statement Friday, suggested one possible reason for the acceleration:

The release of this report was accelerated only after my testimony to the House Intelligence Committee revealed that I would corroborate former Director Comey's accounts of his discussions with the President. The OIG's focus on me and this report became a part of an unprecedented effort by the Administration, driven by the President himself, to remove me from my position, destroy my reputation, and possibly strip me of a pension that I worked 21 years to earn. The accelerated release of the report, and the punitive actions taken in response, make sense only when viewed through this lens.

In an interview with the New York Times, McCabe said directly that his dismissal “is part of an effort to discredit me as a witness.”

We will refrain from speculating on the reason for the rush to fire McCabe before his retirement. But it is peculiar. Why, one wonders, could the Justice Department not have handled his misconduct—if there was misconduct—the way it usually does: by detailing it in the inspector general’s report and noting that the subject, who has since retired, would otherwise be subject to disciplinary action?

The timing seems particularly irregular in light of a second peculiarity unique to McCabe’s case—one probably singular in the history of the American republic: Trump’s personal intervention in the matter and public demands for the man’s scalp. Trump has not been shy about McCabe. He has tormented him both in public and in private, and he publicly demanded his firing on multiple occasions:

Trump developed an unwholesome conspiracy theory about McCabe’s wife, whom he told McCabe was a “loser.” He demanded to know whom McCabe had voted for. According to James Comey’s testimony before the Senate intelligence committee, Trump attempted to use what he believed to be McCabe’s corruption as some kind of a bargaining chip against Comey, informing the director that he had not brought up “the McCabe thing” because Comey had told him that McCabe was honorable.

While we cannot evaluate McCabe’s protestations of innocence at this stage, we can evaluate the truth of much of the rest of his statement:

For the last year and a half, my family and I have been the targets of an unrelenting assault on our reputation and my service to this country. Articles too numerous to count have leveled every sort of false, defamatory and degrading allegation against us. The President's tweets have amplified and exacerbated it all. He called for my firing. He called for me to be stripped of my pension after more than 20 years of service.

. . .

This attack on my credibility is one part of a larger effort not just to slander me personally, but to taint the FBI, law enforcement, and intelligence professionals more generally. It is part of this Administration's ongoing war on the FBI and the efforts of the Special Counsel investigation, which continue to this day. Their persistence in this campaign only highlights the importance of the Special Counsel's work.
Whether or not McCabe’s conduct has been above reproach, all of this is true. And to make matters worse, the firing occurred when Jeff Sessions’s own job is clearly on the line. Sessions, remember, was mulling McCabe’s firing even as Trump himself was mulling Sessions’s firing.

In other words, even if McCabe’s firing proves to be justified on the merits, the question is what could have possibly justified breaking it off from the larger probe and rushing it to completion and adjudication in time to beat the deadline of McCabe’s retirement—particularly in context of presidential demands for his removal and Trump’s broader assault on independent and apolitical law enforcement.

Trump gleefully celebrating the firing is just icing on the cake.

This is how we know it was political:

Why, one wonders, could the Justice Department not have handled his misconduct—if there was misconduct—the way it usually does: by detailing it in the inspector general’s report and noting that the subject, who has since retired, would otherwise be subject to disciplinary action?

They could have done that if what they wanted was to make this whole thing look legitimate in the eyes of the public and undercut the credibility of McCabe without looking like vindictive pricks.They chose not to do that because they are sending a message loud and clear to federal law enforcement that they'd better not cross the king because he will come for them.

Let's not kid ourselves. Trump wanted McCabe punished publicly and that's what happened. He knows that all he has to do is humiliate his underlings, tweet out what he wants and nobody will stop him. Indeed, they will do exactly as he wants.

Now, it's possible that Sessions and the OIG and maybe others all think they are letting the air out of the balloon a little bit here and feeding the King a tasty tidbit of human sacrifice to keep him happy. But Trump's lawyer said this morning:
“I pray that Acting Attorney General Rosenstein will follow the brilliant and courageous example of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and bring an end to alleged Russia Collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe’s boss James Comey based upon a fraudulent and corrupt Dossier."

He later said that he was speaking only for himself. Sure he was.

Trump is getting stronger every day. Don't let the chaos fool you.