To quote Glenn Frey, the heat is on. Senate Judiciary chair Chuck Grassley spiked the temperature yesterday by demanding the dismissal of Deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe, a central figure in several recent controversies, on the eve of his appearance before a House committee. His statement yesterday puts more pressure on FBI director Christopher Wray — and perhaps even more on Donald Trump:
The Senate Judiciary chairman said Monday he wants Andrew McCabe removed as deputy director of the FBI, a day before he is scheduled to testify behind closed doors to the House Intelligence Committee in its Russia investigation.
“He oughta be replaced. And I’ve said that before and I’ve said it to people who can do it,” panel Chairman Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, told reporters.
Grassley has questioned whether McCabe has a conflict of interest and is biased against President Donald Trump. McCabe’s wife in 2015 ran for a state Senate seat in Virginia, backed in part with money from associates of Hillary Clinton, Trump’s opponent in last year’s presidential election.
Until yesterday, Republicans on Capitol Hill had sent the same message with only slightly more subtlety. Last week, House Oversight chair Trey Gowdy told Fox News that he’d be “a little surprised” if McCabe was still employed by today. Allahpundit wrote on Sunday about that and another unnamed Republican predicting that McCabe would be a civilian by the time he arrived to discuss his role in the FBI’s probes of Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Michael Flynn, and his potential conflicts of interest.
And yet, here McCabe is, still the deputy director at the FBI — at least as far as we know. Grassley’s statement was not just aimed at Wray, though — it was also aimed at the White House. Trump wants McCabe fired too, but Grassley warned him to keep his distance:
“Trump ought to stay out of it,” Grassley said. “I think it’s a Christopher Wray job.”
Grassley’s been singling out McCabe for months (as has Trump). In July, Grassley cited McCabe for potential Hatch Act violations, and also noted — before #MeToo — that McCabe has been named in a sexual harassment lawsuit against the FBI, with additional accusations of retaliation. Grassley requested that the Inspector General take a closer look at McCabe at that time:
Has the IG concluded that review? It’s not clear where that stands, but Grassley raised the Hatch Act issue again earlier this month:
In a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Friday, Grassley suggested that McCabe may have used his government email account to advocate for his wife Jill McCabe’s 2015 Virginia state Senate campaign.
Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that could constitute a violation of the Hatch Act, pointing to Justice Department guidance forbidding employees from using “any e-mail account or social media to distribute, send or forward content that advocates for or against a partisan political party.”
“However, the e-mail communications released by the FBI show that Mr. McCabe did precisely that during his wife’s Virginia Senate campaign,” Grassley wrote.
“For instance, in an August 19, 2015, e-mail from his FBI e-mail account to an undisclosed recipient, he wrote: ‘Jill has been busy as hell since she decided to run for VA state senate (long story). Check her out on Facebook as Dr. Jill McCabe for Senate.'”
McCabe already had problems before the release of the Peter Strzok texts, in other words, and it’s not getting any better. But will Wray take the hint? He demoted and reassigned Bruce Ohr, another top-ranked FBI official with apparent conflicts of interest in the Russia-collusion probe, after finding out that Ohr’s wife worked for Fusion GPS and may have been involved in the development of the Steele dossier. He’s walking a fine line, though, between the political demands from Capitol Hill and the White House on one hand and keeping good working order among the rank and file in the other. Perhaps Wray is also waiting for an IG report, not because it will tell him anything not already known, but to ensure that the appearance of independence and fair play are maintained before making any other moves.
But make no mistake — McCabe’s days are numbered, if for no other reason than he’s become something of a household name. That’s almost never a good sign for a law enforcement executive in a political-appointment slot. The range of issues has become too broad for McCabe to recover political capital at this point. If Wray and McCabe don’t get the hint soon, then Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein will be made to see the light.