I’ve seen some folks noting that McCabe could be fired as soon as today. Whispers of charges being brought are out there as well.
In The Strange Timing of Andrew McCabe’s Potential (& Deserved) Firing, I ran through some background on McCabe and why he’s so deserving of an ignominious close to his career.
I also highlighted the unusual timing surrounding the news reports – and the situation it creates:
If McCabe lasts until Sunday, he retires with full benefits. It would be personally satisfying to see him formally fired now.
But the timing of this whole thing seems a bit odd.
The Washington Post “helpfully” notes the dilemma:
The situation now seems fraught for all involved. If the Justice Department does not move on the recommendation, conservatives might view officials there as unfairly protecting McCabe. Trump — who already has a strained relationship with Justice Department leaders — might be particularly displeased.
But if the FBI fires McCabe with just days to go before his retirement, it could be viewed as bending to the will of a vindictive president.
Information being cited in the recommendation from the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility is not new. McCabe has been under investigation for months.
While this could be an indication that the Inspector General’s Report is nearly finished, the timing of this release from “people briefed on the matter” seems suspect to me.
Which probably means AG Sessions is moving closer to something.
Thus, the sudden creation of pressure on Sessions by the timing of this story.
But it’s those whispers of charges that got me thinking about another explanation – one previously considered and discarded. More further down.
As I noted, the information from the FBI’s Office of Responsibility is not new. Just ask Chuck Grassley.
Grassley wrote a letter to James Comey regarding Andrew McCabe’s “potential conflicts” on March 28, 2017. Forty-two days later President Trump would fire Comey – and rightly so.
From the letter:
The Committee requires information to determine: (1) the extent to which FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe has been involved in the FBI’s investigation of President Trump’s associates and Russia; 2) whether that involvement raises the appearance a conflict of interest in light of his wife’s ties with Clinton associates; and (3) whether Mr. McCabe has been or should be recused from the investigation.
As you know, Mr. McCabe is under investigation by the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General. That investigation is examining whether the political and financial connections between his wife’s Democratic political campaign and Clinton associates warranted his recusal in the FBI’s Clinton email investigation.
Grassley goes on to describe political contributions made to McCabe’s wife from Clinton associate and Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe – right as the FBI opened its Clinton email investigation.
I cover all this and more in yesterday’s piece.
Grassley’s letter was written just one week after Comey disclosed the FBI had opened an investigation in July 2016 into Russian-Trump collusion during the 2016 election.
What makes Grassley’s letter particularly interesting are the twelve questions he poses in closing.
So often, it’s only with the benefit of hindsight that details gain weighted significance – especially given what we now know regarding the Inspector General’s Investigation and ongoing FISA abuses by the FBI.
Grassley’s Twelve Questions:
1. Has Mr. McCabe been involved in any capacity in the investigation of alleged collusion between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia? If so, in what capacity has he been involved? When did this involvement begin?
2. Has Mr. McCabe been involved in any requests or approvals for physical surveillance, consensual monitoring, searches, or national security letters relating to the investigation? If so, please provide all related documents.
3. In the course of the investigation, has Mr. McCabe been involved in any requests or approvals relating to the acquisition of the contents of stored communications from electronic communication service providers pursuant to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act? If so, please provide all related documents.
4. Has Mr. McCabe been involved in any FISA warrant applications relating to the investigation? If so, in what capacity? Please provide all related documents.
5. In the course of the investigation, has Mr. McCabe, or anyone under his supervision, made any representations to prosecutors or judges regarding the reliability of information in the FBI’s possession as part of seeking judicial authorization for investigative tools? Has he or anyone under his supervision made any such representations about the political opposition research dossier compiled by Mr. Steele and Fusion GPS? If so, please explain and provide copies of all relevant documents.
6. Was Mr. McCabe involved in any FBI interactions with Mr. Steele? If so, please explain.
7. Did Mr. McCabe brief or otherwise communicate with anyone in the Obama administration regarding the investigation? If so, who did he brief, and when? Please provide all related documents.
8. Has Mr. McCabe been authorized by the FBI to speak to the media, whether as an anonymous source or otherwise, regarding the investigation? If so, please provide copies of such authorizations. If he was so authorized, to whom did he speak, and when? If he was not authorized to do so, does the FBI have any indication that he nonetheless spoke to the media?
9. To the best of your knowledge, has anyone within the FBI raised concerns within the Bureau that Mr. McCabe appears to have a conflict of interest in the investigation of Trump associates? If so, who raised such concerns, when did they do so, and how did FBI respond?
10. To the best of your knowledge, has anyone within the FBI filed a complaint with the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General regarding Mr. McCabe’s involvement in the investigation?
11. Have personnel from the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General spoken with you yet as part of that Office’s investigation into Mr. McCabe’s alleged conflict of interest in the Clinton investigation? If so, did they also raise concerns as to whether Mr. McCabe’s alleged partisan conflict would also apply to the investigation of Mr. Trump’s associates?
12. Has anyone at FBI, the Department of Justice, or the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General recommended or requested that Mr. McCabe recuse himself from the investigation of Mr. Trump’s associates or from any ongoing investigations of the Clinton Foundation? If so, what action was taken in response?
It’s almost startling reading Grassley’s Twelve Questions from our current vantage point.
I’ve previously maintained that Grassley is running point on a coordinated strategy between Congress (Grassley, Goodlatte & Nunes) and the Department of Justice (Sessions & IG Horowitz – possibly including Rosenstein & Wray).
Reading this letter in hindsight feels like confirmation.
Should you have any doubts, read over Grassley’s questions again – especially questions One through Eight.
It seems clear Grassley knew the answers to these questions in March 2017 when he wrote the letter.
For those looking to read tea leaves, I would offer the following.
If charges are brought against McCabe – and they should be – I would suspect the release of the Inspector General’s Report would follow shortly.
Which presents an alternate explanation to simply placing Sessions in an unwinnable situation.
This second explanation has merit if charges are filed against McCabe – especially if done so prior to releasing the IG’s Report.
What better way to provide a serious-minded introduction to the Inspector General’s Report than by prefacing it with charges against the former Deputy Director of the FBI.
Charges that would then be backed up – in detail – by the Inspector General’s Investigation.
The list of offenses committed by McCabe would provide the perfect preamble to the actual IG Report which would lay the specifics out in stark detail.
Initial uproar from the Left would be swept aside by an overwhelming presentation of facts.
To be clear, I’m not ruling this leaking sequence as nothing more than a preemptive move against Sessions.
But this second explanation – given the right circumstances – seems equally plausible to me.
We will find out soon enough.
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