I covered this topic in an earlier post, The GOP war on law enforcement and the rule of law to obstruct justice.
Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post adds, Republicans risk becoming accomplices in obstruction of justice (excerpt):
Republicans in Congress have shown none of the courage Comey, Wray, McGahn, etc., demonstrated. With the exception of chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Republicans have demonstrated little inclination to dig deeply into the scandal or to restrain Trump. Two bipartisan bills seeking to hinder Trump from firing Mueller remain dormant. Democrats should insist these get an up-or-down vote.
Moreover, the antics of House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) should be seen in the context of Trump’s multiple efforts to decapitate the FBI and the Russia investigation. Nunes is plowing the way — cooking up conspiracy theories and propounding baseless allegations against Mueller and the FBI — to predispose the public to accept Mueller’s firing. He is encouraging, almost baiting, Trump to fire Mueller. He is also assisting Trump by tainting the jury (the American people), if you will, to accept or even applaud Mueller’s firing. From the unmasking stunt to his latest “memo,” he has tried to distract from the Russian threat and discredit law enforcement.
The Moscow Project, after detailing a litany of his antics, concludes:
Similar to Nunes’ earlier White House unmasking incident, he is again staging a laughably bizarre event to generate press attention—in this case, demanding that House Republicans release a document that he and fellow House Republicans themselves drafted and have already shared with House Republicans.
Conservatives have launched a media campaign to hype the memo, including breathless allusions to unlawful actions by the FBI in investigating Trump. The crazed conspiracy theories have reached a fever pitch, with members of Congress alleging without any evidence that there is a “secret society” in the FBI that is out to bring down the president. Congressional Republicans have briefed their allies in conservative media who have dutifully gone on the attack, demanding the investigation and jailing of top FBI officials, and even saying “it may be time to declare war on the deep state and clear out the rot at the upper levels of the FBI and the Justice Department.”
Nunes is in every sense cooperating — colluding, you could say — with the ongoing attempts to obstruct justice. It is indefensible.
UPDATE: The House Intelligence Committee could vote as early as Monday evening to release the controversial memo authored by committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) alleging surveillance abuses at the Department of Justice. A committee spokesman said a vote on Monday night was possible but “not 100 percent.” Nunes has not committed publicly to holding the vote. House Intel schedules business meeting as expectations for vote on secret memo grow.
Nevertheless, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) gives him free rein to keep this up. Neither of them have shown anything near the fidelity to the rule of law that Comey, McGahn, Wray and even Sessions (caveat: his lack of candor under oath to the Senate and participation in Comey’s firing may also implicate him) have demonstrated. Neither Nunes nor Ryan seems to grasp that setting up barriers to constrain Trump is the right and constitutional thing to do. It also amounts to protecting Trump from Trump. You almost wonder if Ryan is giving Trump enough rope to hang himself.
Charles Blow of the New York Times writes, Trump Repeats Nixon’s Fateful Panic (excerpt):
The Republican Party is so infected with Trumpism, so fevered in its defense of him, so completely compromised by its alignment with him, that its members are not placing the well-being of the nation and fidelity to the Constitution first and foremost.
But even during the Nixon presidency, Republicans didn’t feel compelled to act until they were jolted out of inaction by the unassailable proof of Nixon’s voice on tape.
It is not clear even that would move today’s Republicans. Trump has already been caught on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women. He was still elected, and now congressional leaders grovel at his feet and laud his leadership.
We now see Trump trying to portray an air of confidence and control, but being betrayed at every turn by his own actions, which reveal a panicked man looking to purge anyone conducting an honest investigation.
The Times’s report last week that Trump wanted to fire Mueller only underscores this. That move would have brought us right back to Nixon’s firing of Cox.
This is no longer about Trump alone. This is now an indictment of the entire Republican Party — the elected officials and the still strident Trump voters — as well as the Trump propaganda machine at Fox News (“news” clearly being a misnomer).
These folks are engaged in an attack on the country from within. They are attacking our institutions. They are attacking the truth. All of this is being done to protect Trump rather than protect America.
This inches us further away from democracy and closer to despotism. Might as well call a thing a thing.
FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe announced today that he is stepping down effective immediately — a move that surprised even those expecting his March retirement, sources tell CNN. FBI Deputy Director McCabe stepping down:
Trump has kept nonstop pressure on McCabe ever since he became acting director in May, using the longtime law enforcement official as a punching bag — both publicly and privately — to vent his frustrations about the FBI. In December, Trump tweeted:
And in July 2017, Trump flatly asked why Attorney General Jeff Sessions had not fired McCabe yet.
“Why didn’t A.G. Sessions replace Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, a Comey friend who was in charge of Clinton investigation but got big dollars ($700,000) for his wife’s political run from Hillary Clinton and her representatives,” Trump wrote. “Drain the Swamp!”
Donald Trump also tried to force McCabe out, an effort that ended when newly appointed FBI Director Christopher Wray threatened to resign.
His issue with McCabe stems from his wife’s failed run for the Virginia state Senate in 2015. The Wall Street Journal reported that Dr. Jill McCabe received six contributions totaling $467,500 from then-Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s political action committee.
In addition, campaign records show that the state Democratic Party, over which McAuliffe has great influence, made two other payments totaling $207,788 in September and October 2015. These donations all occurred before McCabe took over as deputy director of the FBI and before he would have had any oversight into the Clinton email investigation.
The story, which came out during the 2016 campaign, colored Trump’s view of McCabe and led him, according to The Washington Post, to ask McCabe who he voted for in the 2016 election.
Trump, during a briefing with reporters earlier this month, denied asking that question, but went on to slam McCabe, who briefly served as Trump’s acting FBI director after Trump fired James Comey in May.
I don’t think so. No. I don’t think I did,” Trump told reporters about asking who McCabe voted for.
Trump stands by his criticism of McCabe, Sanders said Monday, referring further questions to the FBI.
* * *
McCabe was eligible to retire in March, but with his accumulated leave, he was able to step down earlier.
Various sources described McCabe’s departure as a mutual decision, while others said it was the result of pressure to step down. One source briefed on the matter said McCabe announced his decision to senior executives and portrayed it as his choice. The source disputed the characterization that McCabe was removed.
But a source familiar with the matter said FBI Director Christopher Wray told McCabe he is bringing in his own team, which he would not be a part of, and that it was McCabe’s decision whether to stay at the FBI or leave.
UPDATE: the New York Times confirms, Andrew McCabe Steps Down as F.B.I. Deputy Director Under Pressure:
Andrew G. McCabe abruptly stepped down on Monday as the F.B.I.’s deputy director after months of withering criticism from President Trump, telling friends he felt pressure from head of the bureau to leave, according to two people close to Mr. McCabe.
Though Mr. McCabe’s retirement had been widely expected soon, his departure was nevertheless sudden. As recently as last week, Mr. McCabe had told people he hoped to stay until he was eligible to retire in mid-March. Instead, Mr. McCabe made his intentions known to colleagues on Monday, an American official said, and will immediately go on leave.
* * *
[A]ccording to one former law enforcement official close to Mr. McCabe, Mr. Wray suggested moving Mr. McCabe into another job, which would have been a demotion.
Instead, the former official said, Mr. McCabe chose to leave.
Director Wray named the bureau’s No. 3 official, David L. Bowdich, as his acting deputy.
With his departure, McCabe joins a list of other top bureau officials who have stepped down in recent days as Wray assembles his own team. The departures of the FBI chief of staff and general counsel were also revealed this month.
The New York Times reported this morning on a secret Republican memo explaining how they mean to extend their attack on the FBI to include Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Secret Memo Hints at a New Republican Target: Rod Rosenstein.
Mark Sumner at Daily Kos adds some additional information. McCabe didn’t retire—he was ‘removed’:
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.
* * *
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 [sources and methods].
Just a week ago, stories emerged that Trump had previously attempted to fire McCabe.
It was also recently revealed that Trump asked McCabe who he voted for in the 2016 election.
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 now McCabe is gone.
This can properly be viewed as retaliatiatory witness intimidation and obstruction of justice. An organized campaign to discredit senior FBI officials who are likely to be witnesses against him as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is a conspiracy.