NYT: Chris Wray put pressure on McCabe to quit after finding "something concerning" in IG report

The fit’s going to hit the shan, on the right and on the left. For the right, this is a bombshell: There really is something about McCabe in the Inspector General’s report, apparently, that made Chris Wray uncomfortable with the thought of keeping him on a moment longer than necessary. Wray was always going to end up easing McCabe out of the deputy role as he builds his own team, but with McCabe already poised to retire in March, under normal circumstances it would have been a simple matter of keeping him in his job for six more weeks. Wray couldn’t do it, apparently. Something’s coming and he needed to solve his McCabe problem now.


For the left, this will be treated as proof that Trump’s tactics of putting political pressure on the Justice Department have worked. He and Sessions had been leaning on Wray to dump McCabe and now, lo and behold, McCabe has been muscled out via Wray’s efforts. What exactly is in that IG report that’s so terrible that Wray couldn’t have waited six weeks for him to leave? If the report is released and there’s no bombshell, Wray will be attacked forever after as a Trump crony who’s politicized the Bureau.

But here’s the paper of record reporting that Wray did indeed find “something concerning” in the report, as journalist Adam Goldman puts it:

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 the 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.

In a recent conversation, Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, raised concerns about a forthcoming inspector general report examining the actions of Mr. McCabe and other senior F.B.I. officials during the 2016 presidential campaign, when the bureau was investigating both Hillary Clinton’s email use and the Trump campaign’s connections to Russia. In that discussion, according 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.

So McCabe’s pride made him prefer immediate leave to a demotion? Okay, but that’s hard to square with this sensational tidbit from NBC this afternoon:

The day after President Donald Trump fired James Comey, he became so furious watching television footage of the ousted FBI director boarding a government-funded plane from Los Angeles back to Washington, D.C. that he called the bureau’s acting director, Andrew McCabe, to vent, according to multiple people familiar with the phone call.

Trump demanded to know why Comey was allowed to fly on an FBI plane after he had been fired, these people said. McCabe told the president he hadn’t been asked to authorize Comey’s flight, but if anyone had asked, he would have approved it, three people familiar with the call recounted to NBC News.

The president was silent for a moment and then turned on McCabe, suggesting he ask his wife how it feels to be a loser — an apparent reference to a failed campaign for state office in Virginia that McCabe’s wife made in 2015.

McCabe allegedly replied “OK, sir,” before Trump hung up. A more prideful man might have answered G-F-Y and quit on the spot, but then McCabe was probably thinking about that federal pension he’ll shortly be eligible for. Whether Trump actually insulted his wife or not, we may never know — until the next time McCabe is called to testify before Congress and some Democrat asks him about it during the hearing, I mean — but it’s a grievous shame that it seems plausible. If you read a story about George W. Bush talking to someone that way, particularly an FBI official, you’d scoff. It’s impossible to imagine him saying it. Trump, though? Sure. It has a Wolff-ian “ring of truth.”

There’s good news for the president here, though. Between his nasty alleged shot at McCabe’s wife and his petty alleged annoyance at Comey being allowed to fly into unemployment on a government jet, he really must be innocent of wrongdoing in Russiagate. By this point, the FBI rank and file probably hate his guts so much that they’d have leaked the evidence already to take him down if there was any. There isn’t!

Evidence of obstruction of justice may be another story, though:

Trump met with Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray at the White House last Monday to discuss missing text messages sent between two FBI agents who had expressed anti-Trump views. One of the agents later left his investigation and Mueller removed the other after learning of the texts.

Kelly held separate meetings or phone calls with senior Justice Department officials last Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to convey Trump’s displeasure and lecture them on the White House’s expectations, according to the people. Kelly has taken to ending such conversations with a disclaimer that the White House isn’t expecting officials to do anything illegal or unethical.

The president’s chief of staff dialing up DOJ officials about a hot potato like the Nunes memo to “convey Trump’s displeasure and lecture them on the White House’s expectations,” with or without a check-the-box disclaimer at the end that they’re not being ordered to do anything, sounds suspiciously like political interference with law enforcement. What set Trump off, reportedly, was the letter sent to Nunes last week by assistant AG Stephen Boyd — a Trump appointee — warning him that it would be reckless to publish the memo before the DOJ has seen it and vetted the contents for any national security exposure. I wonder if the fact that Boyd was one of his own nominees is part of what’s driving Trump crazy about all of this. Comey and McCabe were holdovers from the Obama administration but many of the key players on Russiagate — Sessions, Rosenstein, Wray, Boyd — were installed by Trump himself, no doubt on the recommendation of deputies like Don McGahn. It’s one thing for “Obama’s guys” to undermine him but Trump is reportedly mystified that “my guys” at the “Trump Justice Department” are insisting on operating as independent officials instead of as loyalists for whom job one is protecting the president. What do you suppose Mueller’s going to do with that information in building an obstruction case?

Update: Hmmmm!