If the departure of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe on Monday morning came as a surprise to the public, it was apparently also a surprise to Andrew McCabe. CNN is reporting this early departure was anything but voluntary.
From our Justice team One source said FBI Deputy Director McCabe’s departure was not in the plans as of Friday. The source said McCabe was told this morning to step down. A second source described McCabeÃ¢ÂÂs departure as being Ã¢ÂÂremovedÃ¢ÂÂ.
— Steve Brusk (@stevebruskCNN) January 29, 2018
Removing a long-serving member of the FBI like McCabe without cause would be not just extraordinary, but unprecedented. McCabe was already scheduled to leave by Mid-March. That Christopher Wray came into his office on Monday morning to tell him he was leaving right away, no option, is either a signal of some new information concerning McCabe—or a signal that Donald Trump is simply no longer following any sort of legal protocol when it comes to getting rid of people who haven’t agreed to a personal pledge of loyalty.
There was apparently no warning from Wray, and no warning for those who work with and around McCabe. The situation at the FBI remains chaotic as it now seems that Trump is willing to fire anyone, at any time. McCabe was a career agent who worked his way up through the agency over two decades. The idea that he could be dismissed on the spur of the moment solidifies the idea that Trump views the FBI not as a law-enforcement agency, but as a tool he can use to assault his enemies.
Considering recent news that Trump attempted to fire Robert Mueller and that Trump tried to force out Rod Rosenstein, pushing McCabe out the door weeks before his planned retirement would seem both patently spiteful and even dangerous—but also exactly the kind of thing that Trump would do.
What’s being painted as a “mutual decision” appears to be an abrupt, and direct, forced removal.
Later today, the House will consider release of the Devin Nunes-authored #ReleaseTheMemo memo, which apparently includes both McCabe and Rosenstein among the targets for the “scandal” it’s generating through distortion and selective editing.
The Justice Department has written to Nunes asking them not to release the memo, but there seems to be little doubt that Trump and House Republicans will cooperate to release the document, no matter how slanted it is or how much damage it does to the FBI, the Justice Department, and US intelligence efforts.
Just a week ago, stories emerged that Trump had previously attempted to fire McCabe.
Pressure was applied to Wray through a route that’s becoming familiar: Trump had White House Attorney Don McGahn threaten Attorney General Jefferson Sessions. Sessions then began to lean on Wray until Wray made it clear that if Sessions didn’t back off, he was leaving. When that was relayed back through McGahn, Trump dropped his attempt to oust McCabe.
It was also recently revealed that Trump asked McCabe who he voted for in the 2016 election.
The officials said McCabe responded by telling the President that he didn’t vote.
Trump also expressed frustration because McCabe’s wife had received “several hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations” when she ran for a Virginia state Senate seat in 2015 from a group with ties to Hillary Clinton, the officials said, according to The Washington Post’s report.
McCabe was the last senior member of FBI remaining from the time of Director James Comey. Trump has now overseen the departure of the entire FBI leadership team—all while Republicans continued to paint the FBI as somehow part of a “deep state” conspiracy.
Foreign Policy previously reported on an organized campaign to discredit that leadership, expressly so that they would lose power in acting as witnesses to support Comey.
President Donald Trump pressed senior aides last June to devise and carry out a campaign to discredit senior FBI officials after learning that those specific employees were likely to be witnesses against him as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, according to two people directly familiar with the matter.
Trump’s efforts to politicize the FBI have never been subtle, but at least when he asked Comey to take a loyalty oath, it was in private. Now the plan to make the FBI into Trump’s tool is not only much further along, it’s much more overt.
The FBI officials Trump has targeted are Andrew McCabe, the current deputy FBI director and who was briefly acting FBI director after Comey’s firing; Jim Rybicki, Comey’s chief of staff and senior counselor; and James Baker, formerly the FBI’s general counsel. Those same three officials were first identified as possible corroborating witnesses for Comey in a June 7 article in Vox. Comey confirmed in congressional testimony the following day that he confided in the three men.
Wray replaced Jim Rybicki last week. Baker was reassigned in December. And McCabe is gone.